The COVID-19 pandemic has made October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month look a lot different this year. While we might not be donning pink ribbons in the office or participating in a walk or 5K with a large group, now is still a good time for many of us to remember to get our annual mammogram. Centers such as the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center at AdventHealth Tampa are taking great care to provide mammography and other breast imaging tests in ways that keep patients safe. Regular screening mammograms save lives, and it is not wise for women to skip or delay their mammograms.
“My ideal patients are the ones who are doing breast exams, getting mammograms and taking responsibility for understanding their health,” says John M. Cox, MD, a fellowship-trained breast surgeon at the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center.
More than 1 out of every 8 women will have a breast cancer diagnosis at least once in her life. Having regular mammograms or breast imaging can help detect the cancer early. When breast cancer is found early, it tends to be easier to treat – and treatment is easier on patients. However, no matter what stage breast cancer is at when a patient is diagnosed, the team at the comprehensive Kay Meyer Breast Care Center stands ready to give patients hope by combining advanced treatment with compassionate care.
Navigating Breast Cancer Treatment in Tampa
“Cancer can be a very difficult thing to go through, so we do our best to make treatment doable,” Dr. Cox says. “We break things up into small steps so it won’t be overwhelming,” he continues. “Each step is a small victory.”
The center’s comprehensive breast care program makes it easier for patients by being located all in one building. Besides radiation therapy, housed in the main hospital, the other breast cancer treatment and support services are right at the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center. Patients can meet with their breast surgeon and, if necessary, receive chemotherapy right at the same center. The center also offers services such as support groups and lymphedema therapy to alleviate any swelling of the arms after a mastectomy.
Breast cancer treatment involves many different appointments, and Dr. Cox points out that navigating these is better at the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center than it would be at a larger center.
“Our patients feel more comfortable and at ease in knowing their doctor and knowing their nurse practitioner. We’re not a giant place to navigate,” he says.
Comprehensive Breast Care That Sees the Patient as a Whole Person
Even though the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center feels like a small, warm and friendly place, patients still have access to the advanced treatments. In fact, the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center is AdventHealth’s regional center for breast cancer treatment.
The center’s multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists – and also pathologists and radiologists – regularly meets to review patient cases. Having the specialists who diagnose breast cancer present at these multidisciplinary conferences helps the doctors treating cancer understand a patient’s case better. At these conferences, the experts in the room explore every angle of a patient’s situation. Together, they plan effective treatment that fits with patients’ lifestyles and health goals.
“We are trained to handle all forms of breast cancer,” says Dr. Cox, explaining that breast cancer isn’t just one disease, but has many different subtypes. Therefore, treatment, say, for an 80-year-old woman with a small breast tumor will look different than treatment for a much younger woman who hasn’t yet reached menopause. Some patients will need radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy as well as surgery. Others with very small cancers that haven’t spread to nearby tissues may only require surgery.
Access to Advanced Breast Cancer Treatments
The multidisciplinary team can develop treatment plans that incorporate some of the most leading-edge advances available for breast cancer today. Dr. Cox himself specializes in surgical techniques that remove breast tumors while sparing the patient’s nipple. For some patients, this is an ideal approach that leaves them with a more natural-looking breast. It might even preserve nipple sensitivity in some cases.
Dr. Cox also conducts research into sentinel node biopsy. During the operation to remove the breast tumor and some or all of the patient’s breast tissue, the surgeon also removes one or more nearby lymph nodes. This node or nodes is then checked for cancer. Depending on the results, the patient may need additional therapy added to their care plan.
Doctors at the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center provide a number of other advanced treatment approaches. Some of these include breast-conserving surgery; clinical trials to give patients access to promising new treatments before they are widely available; and intraoperative radiation therapy, or applying radiation directly to the treatment site during surgery to help prevent tumor cells from coming back.
Follow-Up Care for Breast Cancer
Even after a patient has finished their course of treatment, keeping follow-up appointments afterward will be important. That’s because the cancer could return, and it’s important to detect recurrence as early as possible.
“We quickly and effectively treat patients,” says Dr. Cox, “but we still see them every six months for the first two or three years.” He mentions that some patients with small, noninvasive cancers might only require a couple years of follow up while some of his other patients have seen him annually for 15 years.
Given that patients with breast cancer will be with their treatment team for some time, it’s important to like that team.
“We have great people here who strive to provide personalized, compassionate care,” adds Dr. Cox.
If you or a loved one is facing a breast cancer diagnosis, get the advanced and effective care you need in a warm, comfortable environment. Call
Call844-464-2284 for an appointment at the Kay Meyer Breast Care Center at AdventHealth Tampa.