September 30, 2020
Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness month is celebrated each October. Breast Cancer is something that has impacted us deeply. As breast surgeons, this month means so much to us. We strive to provide compassionate care to our patients and their families as we navigate their treatment plan, surgery, and post-operative care. Breast Cancer Awareness Month allows us all to come together to support a common goal: The fight against Breast Cancer.

This month, each of our surgeons answered a very important and personal question: What Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Mean to You?

Dr. Desiree D’Angelo-Donovan:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month to me is an opportunity for women to take control of their health. We should all have our own health and wellness at the forefront of our minds, but as women we frequently put ourselves last as we care for children, family and friends. October, I hope, will be a reminder to women to put themselves first and take a moment to focus on their health and get their mammograms. It is something so simple, that can make such a lasting impact when a lesion is found early and never has a chance to manifest into cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month also means success and survival. Breast cancer survival has continued to improve over the years. The average 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer is greater than 90%. 60 years ago, that number was 25%. We have made great leaps and bounds forward with research and new treatments for breast cancer. We still have room to continue to improve, but October makes me feel hopeful for the future. I hope that women take control of their health and that we continue to see the survival rate go up when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer. Now, go out and get your mammogram!!

Dr. Ann Chuang:

The whole world turns pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Football teams wear pink uniforms, bridges and streets are lit up in pink.  This is a reminder that both men and women need to stop and pay attention to their breasts.  Masses or nipple discharge that was previously ignored should be relooked at.  Make that appointment to see your primary care physician, OB/GYN or breast surgeon.  Life is busy, but now is the time to stop and take care of yourself.  Breast cancer screening saves lives.  Breast cancer can be detected early and most early breast cancers are 99% curable.  Breast cancer awareness month reminds people to put their health as a priority.

It is estimated that 42,690 deaths (42,170 women and 520 men) from breast cancer will occur this year and that is just too many.  There are too many lives that could have been saved with screening and intervention.  As a breast surgeon, I will not stop advocating for breast health until we stop losing loved ones from cancer.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please take a moment to take care of yourself.

Dr. Dana Holwitt:

For October’s blog entry, each physician was asked to write 1-2 paragraphs about what breast cancer awareness month means to us.  Initially, I thought it would be a breeze. In reality, I found myself asking how do I distill everything October means to me into two paragraphs? October is the month that changed my life forever and it just happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  October 29, 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer on a baseline mammogram at my first practice out of fellowship.  There I was a little over 1 year into practice as a breast surgeon and within 3 minutes on a Thursday afternoon in October I became a 36-year-old female with breast cancer. So, October means another year has passed where my doctors and I have managed to be the victors.  It means, I had another year to take care of women and men just like me who were living their lives and in the blink of an eye they became part of a sisterhood/brotherhood they did not sign up for.  Breast Cancer Awareness month as a fellow patient/ survivor reminds me of the strength, courage, gratitude, humility, and sadness I experienced during my own cancer journey and again with my patients as they have gone through theirs.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my amazing patients have inspired me to use my voice for those who have lost theirs. I think every month should be Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As a Breast Surgeon, Breast Cancer Awareness Month always reminds me how far we have come in treatment breakthroughs, genetic testing and technology but we still have so much to learn.  This month magnifies the need for the medical community to come to a single consensus on when to start screening mammography for average risk women and how frequently to get mammograms.  The fact that the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American College of Radiology have one set of recommendations and the American Cancer Society, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Practitioners have a different set of recommendations is confusing enough for doctors. Imagine how confusing it must be for our patients.  Conflicting recommendations unfortunately lead to many women forgoing screening mammography altogether.  It is our job as leaders in breast health and breast cancer treatment to educate the community, both healthcare workers and patients, regarding the best evidence based medical recommendations.  These are to start screening mammograms at age 40 and then continue annually after that. These are the best medical recommendations endorsed by the American Society of Breast Surgeons and The American College of Radiology. This month also reminds me of the disparity in access to screening and treatment for breast cancer and the great need for funding of programs that provide these resources for the uninsured and underinsured men and women in our communities. Breast Cancer care and the options available for treatment should be consistent regardless of insurance status. October just lights my fire for patient advocacy even more. Finally, Breast Cancer Awareness Month fills my heart with love and gratitude.  When I see the happy faces of patients who are surviving and thriving, supporting other patients who are just beginning their journey at a walk, or on Facebook I swell with pride. It seems like the only news in 2020 has been bad, worse, or horrendous. But watching a group of women from all different walks of life, brought together by a common disease laughing with each other, hugging each other tightly, some wearing pink tutu’s, some with pink crowns, and some with big pink angel wings just living each and every day with joy-I know that I am truly blessed to have played a small part in that.


Dr. James Frost:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Every October I remember.

My maternal grandmother, Ruth

My grandmother’s two sisters Tea and Bert

My mother Sheila

Bert’s daughter Barbara

My father’s sister Eleanor

My wife’s mother Reba

My wife’s Aunt Arlene

My wife’s grandmother Anne

They all had breast cancer.

Two are still alive.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Earlier diagnosis leads to more cures and lives saved.

It’s time to grab yourself, your mother, grandmothers, daughters, and girlfriends.

Get your mammograms, and breast exams

The newest 3D mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI exams offer the best screening ever available.

Risk assessment and genetic testing allow identification of our highest risk women.

New treatments offer improved care and survival.

Don’t let Breast Cancer be a Goliath.

Allow us your health care professionals to be your sling shot and stop the Goliath of Breast Cancer.

When it comes to breast cancer, you can control the memories you create.

I remember.

Dr. Anjeanette Brown:

So why Breast Cancer as my professional focus?

My maternal grandmother, Frances Graham- an educator/guidance counselor- was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in college at University of Maryland. She had opted for a mastectomy instead of having a lumpectomy and radiation. She had a successful surgical outcome, but I remember seeing her incision. A general surgeon had used staples to close her incision and I thought visually it was jarring…who wanted to look like Frankenstein?

My grandmother stated that it didn’t matter as long as the incision was closed BUT it bothered me–she knew I was considering medical school at that time. When I was accepted to University of Maryland for medical school, then general surgery residency, she brought up our previous conversation. She said that I should consider breast surgery as a profession, as there had recently been the addition of a Breast Fellowship with a focus on patient care/aesthetics (how to make the incisions look better) and overall wellness.

She passed at age 91, 4 years ago (not from her cancer) but I work daily to uphold all that she embodied to take the best personal care of my breast cancer patients.