St. Mary offers more than just treatment for breast cancer patients

The multidisciplinary team works to ensure women focus on life afterward

The Times

With breast cancer patients living longer, fuller lives, St. Mary Medical Center’s multidisciplinary team of oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and nurse navigators are not only working to ensure that patients know about treatment options, but are working to have them focus on life after treatment.

“At St. Mary, we take a holistic approach and think of the whole patient and not just the cancer,” said Hiral P. Fontanilla, MD, medical director of the St. Mary Breast Program. “The entire team works together to get them back to their lives. When each of our patient’s cases are presented at the multidisciplinary tumor board, their treatment plan equally focuses on the best cancer outcomes and improving quality of life.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 270,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. However, advances in treatment combined with early detection and increased surveillance means there is a 90 percent survival rate after five years.

“Unsurprisingly, a breast cancer diagnosis causes fear and uncertainty, but when we talk with patients about reconstruction options, they realize that breast cancer isn’t a death sentence,” said Russell M. Reisner, MD, FACS, breast surgeon and surgical oncologist at St. Mary. “This is why it is so critical to have a team-based approach. We collaborate so that patients get a full picture of all their options, even before treatment begins.”

St. Mary offers innovative breast reconstruction services for breast cancer patients, such as using a patient’s own tissue, called autologous or flap reconstruction, and tissue expansion, which uses silicone-based implants to create a breast shape. The method used is largely dependent on the patient’s needs.

“We partner with the patient to determine which technique is best for her situation and that will best fit her needs,” said Nathaniel L. Holzman, MD, FACS, plastic surgeon at St. Mary. “Each type of reconstruction technique offers its own set of benefits. There is no out-of-the-box solution that works for everyone.”

St. Mary also provides supportive services that build and maintain the physical and emotional strength that patients need for their cancer journey. This includes breast cancer rehabilitation services, support groups and financial counseling.

“We focus on the whole woman at St. Mary,” said Holzman. “It’s not enough to make sure breast cancer patients survive. We work to help all of our patients fully recover and get back to enjoying life to the fullest.”

A planned renovation and expansion of the Breast Center at St. Mary will feature four mammography rooms and machines, two ultrasound rooms and machines, four waiting rooms and space for two nurse navigators. There will also be cosmetic upgrades and additional patient-centered enhancements, such as an expanded waiting area, more bathrooms and storage space.

The Women’s Resource Center, located in the St. Mary Breast Center, provides books and literature on breast health for patients and families to utilize and make informed decisions about breast health treatment options. For more information, visit