June 12, 2019 by John Fernandez
Benign But Not Forgotten: New Program Targets Patients With Benign Breast Disease
Zoila Sobrino, a gastrointestinal cancer survivor, was unnerved when a recent mammogram showed a small nodule in her right breast. The 59-year-old mother was busy with work and raising two 9-year-olds, “but I knew this needed to be checked out.”
A biopsy concluded that the nodule was a fibroadenoma, a benign mass. Fibroadenomas, breast cysts, breast infections, nipple discharge and breast pain are usually noncancerous conditions that affect women of all ages. When cancer is ruled out, these benign conditions still need medical monitoring. Women can find help through Baptist Health Breast Center’s new Benign Breast Disease Program, which offers comprehensive care, education and support.
“Whenever women have something wrong in the breast, they are incredibly scared,” said breast cancer surgeon Anna Maria Voltura, M.D., the Breast Center’s clinical director. “In most cases, however, they do not have cancer. We have to reassure and educate them.”
Dr. Voltura has personal knowledge of the toll of breast cancer. Three maternal aunts and her sister-in-law have battled the disease. “I think this is something that helps me see the bigger picture with my patients and better understand their fear and emotions,” she said.
Women receiving care through the program work with a team that includes nurse practitioner Dora Escobedo, ARNP, Dr. Voltura and the Center’s other surgeons, Medical Director Robert DerHagopian, M.D., and Associate Medical Director Gladys Giron, M.D. The program’s top mission is to make certain the patient’s condition is indeed benign.
“The first step is to confirm the diagnosis,” Ms. Escobedo said. “We review the diagnostic testing, perform a thorough exam and take a medical history, reviewing menstrual cycles, injuries — anything that may lead to changes in the breast.”
Physicians often do not remove benign breast masses or drain cysts because this can lead to scar tissue, making future mammograms more difficult to read.
“Most of the time, we simply monitor our patients with mammograms, ultrasounds and clinical exams. We make sure nothing changes,” Ms. Escobedo said. In some cases, the cells in a benign breast mass may indicate an increased risk of breast cancer, and patients will need additional testing such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). “We are able to create an individualized treatment plan, and we have all the personnel under one roof,’’ said Ms. Escobedo.
For Ms. Sobrino, the team recommended a follow-up mammogram in six months. The physician performing the biopsy left a tiny clip in the breast so the fibroadenoma can be precisely monitored.
“I am so happy with my care,” Ms. Sobrino said. “This is a wonderful program. I have all the information I need. I now understand how to follow my condition.”
In addition to the Benign Breast Disease Program, the Breast Center is developing a program for patients with a high risk for breast cancer. Slated to open this fall, it will offer women a range of services, including genetic counseling, clinical exams with breast specialists and, if necessary, the latest evidence-based treatments.
“We are bringing together different approaches and disciplines,” Dr. Voltura said. “We want to offer the most comprehensive services and transform breast health.”
Visit BaptistHealthBreastCenter.com to schedule an appointment, learn more about the team at the Center, and follow a blog written by a breast cancer survivor and Baptist Health staff and doctors.