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Breast Cancer Care Team Shares Updates

September 18, 2019

Holly Mason, MD, section chief, breast surgery, shares an update from the Baystate Health breast cancer care team.

The Baystate Health breast cancer care team, which includes surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, continues to work toward optimizing breast cancer care in the Pioneer Valley.

Close collaboration and communication between providers allows us to effectively tailor treatment recommendations to the individual patient and navigate the complexity of breast cancer management.

An excellent example of this collaboration is the team-based approach to management of axillary lymph nodes (the lymph nodes in the armpit). These are the nodes that breast cancer will spread to first. For almost 100 years, the management of lymph nodes in a breast cancer patient was to remove them all, what is called an axillary node dissection. Research has shown that removing all of the lymph nodes is not helpful to patients in terms of controlling breast cancer and, in fact, can be harmful due to the risk of lymphedema, a chronic and incurable swelling of the arm. Now we know that many patients can have just one or two lymph nodes removed without compromising breast cancer care, and a select group of women can avoid lymph node removal altogether.

The decision on how to handle the lymph nodes is not made by a surgeon alone as it once was; medical oncology and radiation oncology have a role in the decision-making process. Through the Baystate Health Breast Network, our team of specialists has developed guidelines, which are available to all practitioners at Baystate Health, that outline how to determine whether or not lymph nodes should be removed. Having guidelines helps to ensure that all patients receive the same quality of care across our health system.

As I discussed at Survivor’s Day in June, the theme for breast cancer care now is escalating care when appropriate and de-escalating care when possible. This means maximizing all treatment options for aggressive or advanced cancers and avoiding treatment options that will not provide benefit or in cases where the potential harm outweighs the benefit.

This effort to individualize care can only happen when your team works together with you to determine what treatment plan will best treat your cancer and allow you to maintain your quality of life.

Breast surgery team update

Baystate Breast Specialists is pleased to announce that Dr. Jesse Casaubon will join our practice this fall as a dedicated breast surgeon. Dr. Casaubon grew up in Colorado and is a graduate of Colorado State University. He obtained his medical degree from Rocky Vista University in Parker, Colorado. His clinical years took him everywhere from rural Colorado to Anchorage, Alaska, and to countries including Nepal, Malawi, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Peru where he began to understand and appreciate the disparities in global health care. He completed his general surgery training in Brooklyn, New York, at the New York Medical College affiliate, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. He has completed a Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship at Brown University’s program at the Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

Baystate Breast Specialists will also welcome Megan Elterman, FNP, to our practice in October. Megan received her undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts and her master’s degree from Simmons College in Boston. Megan has 14 years of acute oncology experience at Baystate Medical Center and at Saint Francis Medical Center as a registered nurse. This experience provides her with excellent insight into the needs of patients and families during the entirety of their breast care journey. Megan will see patients on the Breast and Wellness Center on Wason Avenue.

Learn more about how you can support this work through Rays of Hope.