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UHS Breast Center expedites answers from diagnosis through recovery

If something needs doing, Jackie Vetri gets it done. That’s how she rolls — at the office, at home with her husband and four children, and certainly when it comes to her health. So when this 46-year old dynamo’s mammogram raised suspicions, she wasted no time making an appointment with UHS breast surgeon Camelia Lawrence, MD, at the Breast Center at UHS Vestal.

Dr. Lawrence studied the abnormality in Ms. Vetri’s mammogram and recommended a biopsy, which was completed that same afternoon. In less than 24 hours, the biopsy results were in. Ms. Vetri had breast cancer. “Dr. Lawrence saw right away that I’m not someone who waits around. I wanted to do whatever was necessary for a full recovery, and I wanted to do it as quickly as possible,” Ms. Vetri recalls. Respecting her patient’s drive to survive, Dr. Lawrence performed her patient’s bilateral mastectomy 20 days after diagnosis.

A year later, Ms. Vetri is exactly where she wants to be — celebrating cancer-clean checkups. She’s also now able to look back and talk about those angst-filled days between diagnosis and surgery, which included pre-surgery procedures, meetings with oncologists and consultations with a plastic surgeon about breast reconstruction. “What’s amazing is that I saw so many people but never made a single appointment,” she stresses. “The Breast Center team took care of everything. You have no idea what a blessing that was.”

The personal attention Ms. Vetri received is business as usual at the Breast Center. “Our multidisciplinary approach lets us move patients through the system so they’re never alone and every medical resource links to the next resource,” Dr. Lawrence explains. Although, the surgeon adds, the system is never systematic. “It’s an individualized process for each patient because everyone copes differently with a breast cancer diagnosis. We understand that, and it makes our approach unique.”

Center of Attention

Creating a patient-centered continuum of care took more than great medical minds and gumption. It also took bricks and mortar. “When UHS opened the Breast Center at the Vestal location in 2012, that brought the breast care clinical and surgical pieces together under one roof, which closed any gaps between screening, diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Lawrence.

With radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, geneticists, pathologists, nurse practitioners, technologists, breast surgeons and other experts in early detection of breast cancer working side-by-side, the result is a seamless loop of care, including mammography, ultrasonography, breast MRI, image-guided core biopsies, cytopathology, lymphedema services and lab services. “The team — including a breast surgeon who is on site at all times — is always ready. No woman ever has to wait for the care she needs,” Dr. Lawrence explains.

In addition to reducing patient anxiety, the Breast Center’s coordinated continuum of care also reduces time between a positive diagnosis and targeted intervention. “Time is of the essence when dealing with breast cancer, and the sooner we have a diagnosis, the sooner intervention begins,” Dr. Lawrence stresses.

Expeditious biopsy results in particular give UHS medical and radiation oncologists a head start on designing and scheduling individualized post-surgery treatment plans, including chemotherapy and radiation. “The core biopsy tells us the breast tumor classification, and oncologists use this information to identify the best treatment protocol for that kind of tumor,” Dr. Lawrence emphasizes. “With the multidisciplinary system we’ve established, our oncologists receive the same biopsy results I do and treatment plans begin without any time gaps.”

An Eye on the Future

State-of-the-art screening, diagnosis and treatment capabilities that deliver advanced technology and medical information consistently prompt UHS breast cancer patients, like Ms. Vetri, to describe the Breast Center’s level of care as “amazing.” Earning this level of patient satisfaction is the Center’s top priority. However, ongoing peer recognition as a true visionary in breast care is also creating quite the buzz.

For example, the Breast Center participates in The American Society of Breast Surgeons Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Registry, which gives UHS breast cancer patients access to the latest advancements in mastectomy and leading-edge reconstruction procedures. In addition, UHS recently received approval as a National Cancer Institute Affiliate. “This allows our medical oncology group and our patients to participate in certain national breast cancer trials,” Dr. Lawrence says. “These trials are the cornerstone of emerging treatment modalities. Participating in these trials puts us among an elite group of medical centers that will be ready to meet the future at full speed.”  

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Mammography is available at four UHS locations. Visit the breast health hub on the UHS website to get more information about breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment at UHS.