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Breast Health Champions

These experts are paving the way in breast cancer detection, prevention and treatment.


BROUGHT TO YOU BY CONSULTANTS IN MEDICAL ONCOLOGY AND HEMATOLOGY

Laura Austin, MD & Nabila Chowdhury, MD

Medical Oncologist and Hematologist
Consultants in Medical Oncology and Hematology

What excites you most about advances in breast cancer treat­ment? NC: In many ways, the field of breast cancer has been the frontier in personalized cancer treatment. We have been pioneers in targeted therapy, and now we are integrating immu­notherapy into our treatment paradigm. We also continue to improve on our traditional chemo and hormonal therapies. It’s a testament to clinical research-and all of the brave women participating in it-that led us here. LA: Over time, we’ve come to understand that breast cancer is not this monolithic disease treated in a single way; it’s a collection of diseases. So as we learn more about the molecular underpinnings of breast cancer, we understand what drives them, and how to effectively treat them. There are different types, and each is treated differently, through various combinations of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and endocrine therapy.

Are there any common myths about breast cancer that your patients have heard? NC: Whenever patients hear the word cancer, they think that this is the ultimate diagnosis and they are not going to live long. But with breast cancer, we’re fortunate to be able to detect the cancer at very early stages, which is curable.
LA: It can be difficult to under­stand the multifaceted approach of breast cancer treatment. It’s not just surgery, and it’s not just taking medication-it’s a multi­disciplinary approach that may involve chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, radiation and surgery depending on the type and stage of breast cancer.

How do you guide patients through the many decisions that follow a diagnosis? LA: Traditionally in medicine, doctors dictated the plan of care to their patients, but it’s not so patriarchal anymore, and that’s a really positive change. One of the most basic roles that we have as physicians is to provide a patient with a clear understanding of what’s going on. I don’t want to bombard her with information and then tell her what to do before she even has a chance to understand or digest what I’ve told her. At the end of the day, it’s her body and her disease.
NC: I prioritize addressing their mental health while also being clear about their treatment options. Patients come in with a lot of anxiety and questions. An open conversation is important­ to have that connection with the patient and to let them know that I’m here to help them in what­ever way I can. I might ask them their concerns about work, their kids, how much support they have at home, even about hair loss, which can be a very sensi­tive issue for women.