The FDA Granted Approval for New Breast Cancer Medication

The FDA, or U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved two new medications for breast cancer treatments. The approval for these treatments was expedited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these medications targets metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, while the other targets HER2-positive  cancers.

Richard Pazdur, the director of the FDA’s Oncology Center for Excellence, stated, “As part of FDA’s ongoing and aggressive commitment to address the novel coronavirus pandemic, we continue to keep a strong focus on patients with cancer who constitute a vulnerable population at risk of contracting the disease. At this critical time, we continue to expedite oncology product development.”

 

FDA Approval

The drug’s applications were granted by the FDA under the provision known as “accelerated approval” due to today’s current conditions. This means that the drugs may be distributed and administered under specific criteria. There will still be further data from further clinical trials required before full approval is granted.

The medications may be administered to patients only when certain conditions are met. For Todelvy, this means that it is “reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit to patients” who have are in serious condition and have unmet medical needs. For Tukysa, the medication must be administered alongside chemotherapy, and there must be at least one prior attempt at treatment.

 

Trodelvy

Trodelvy, also known as sacituzumab govitecan, is one of the medications to receive accelerated approval. Produced by Immunomedics, Trodelvy received approval based on results from a clinical trial (phase 1/2) of 108 patients.  These patients had all received at least two treatments previously for their metastatic cancer.

It was given intravenously. It is formed of a combination of SN-38 (a metabolite of irinotecan, a chemo drug) and a monoclonal antibody that targets an antigen that induces cancer cell growth.  The response rate in breast cancer patients in the trial was 33%, and 55.6% of those responders maintained their response at least six months.

Some common side effects of Trodelvy are nausea, fatigue, anemia, low white blood cell counts, as well as hair loss, rash, and abdominal pain. There are chances of more severe side effects to keep an eye out for, such as severe diarrhea and neutropenia–an abnormally low level of neutrophils.

 

Tukysa

Tukysa is the brand name of tucatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor of HER2 proteins. When taken with capecitabine and trastuzumab in adult patients, it is intended for advanced metastatic, HER2-positive breast cancer, including brain metastases. The patients must have attempted at least one anti-HER2-based treatment geared towards metastasis.

This medication has been shown to inhibit the phosphorylation of both HER2 and HER3 in-vitro, or in lab studies. Further clinical trials will be performed.

Some common side effects of Tukysa are fatigue, liver problems, decreased appetite, hand-foot syndrome, and mouth sores, as well as others. The liver problems can become more severe, as can diarrhea, leading to other health problems.

 

Breast Cancer Treatment

Many adjustments have had to be made in day-to-day life with the introduction of the Novel Coronavirus. This includes the treatment of breast cancer, the testing of medication, and FDA processes of approval. These new medications have been pushed forward into the market more speedily than usual, but that does not mean they were pushed forward recklessly.

Each was pushed forward by the Food and Drug Administration with certain conditions to met before application. Each must also continue testing before the FDA approves it fully.


Texas Breast Center’s Covid-19 Safe Care

Dr. Gorman and the Texas Breast Center are still taking patients, but understand that there is hesitance in this time of COVID-19. To help ease fears and discomfort for patients, we have implemented certain safety measures, following Baylor Scott & White’s COVID-19 Safe Care Plan.

In-Office Policies

While some things have changed in the processes for patients and visitors to the Texas Breast Center, we are back to a full schedule. To maximize our patients’ safety, we are offering virtual care via video conferencing with your doctor for some appointments. There is also a drive-thru option for specimen collection. The waiting room is currently closed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, so when a patient arrives, they will wait in their car until an exam room is ready. When they are informed a room is ready, they will be escorted directly to their rooms. To encourage social distancing for both the patient and physician, only one visitor will be allowed to accompany the patient back. Everyone must wear a mask, including patients, visitors, and medical team members.

There will also be a screening process upon entry checking for any temperatures above 99.6 F as well as asking about potential COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or others. If the patient answers yes to the questions or has a fever, they will be quickly moved to a separate, designated area, to prevent the spread of infection. If a visitor has a fever or answers, yes, health services will be offered. If the visitor does not need them at that time, we will request that they return home and contact their primary care doctor.

Policies and procedures are a little different when it comes to surgery rather than a general appointment or checkup at the facility.

Pre-Surgery Policies

While a surgeon’s preparatory efforts start happening well in advance of the surgery, usually a patient does not need to take any action until the day before. However, under the Safe Care guidelines, patients have a few tasks they must take care of in the week leading up to their surgery to assist in potential disease control.

Each patient is enrolled in a digital care journal five days in advance to help monitor them for fever or other symptoms of COVID-19. This online journal also offers resources to each patient who has questions. Then, 48 hours before the procedure, each patient will be tested, even if not symptomatic. Many people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and can spread the virus without being aware of the risk. This is why both the testing and the personal journal are essential to your treatment. The results will determine how you and your medical team members proceed from there.

If your test comes back negative, you do not have the virus. You will not be called with the results if this is the case and can proceed with your surgery as expected. However, be aware that if the test is taken within the first 1-2 days after being infected, the results may show negative. So processes are in place at the hospital to keep patients safe, including masks worn by all hospital staff. If the COVID-19 test reveals a positive result, you have an active infection. In this case, you will be called by a healthcare team member to give you information on how to care for yourself and protect those around you. We will notify the local health department of your positive test–we are required to do so–so that you do not have to worry about it. Your surgeon and team will make a case-by-case determination on whether to postpone your procedure or continue as scheduled based on specific health needs and requirements.

When surgery takes place, all patients and visitors are screened upon entry to the building. On the day of the procedure, each patient is allowed one visitor, and then one for every 24 hours they remain admitted.

Personal Health and Safety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given us many guidelines and pointed us in a direction to follow to best care for our patients. In following these guidelines and setting up some ourselves to keep our patients safe, we have implemented new options and arrangements. As stated above, virtual care and telemedicine options are now available before and after procedures and surgeries whenever appropriate so that patients may stay home and away from hospitals.

Along these lines, Virtual Waiting Rooms have been implemented. These are patient portals used to communicate updates about care, scheduling, etc. between the hospitals, doctors’ offices, and surgery centers. These ‘waiting rooms’ can be used to set up messaging via text or phone calls as well so that there is the absolute minimum time spent in common areas.

Everyone within the buildings, including staff, patients, and visitors, must be masked and participate in social distancing to assist each other in minimizing the spread of COVID-19. We have also implemented touch-free protocols, involving paperless registration, and enhanced cleaning protocols, including UV-light disinfection.

Dr. Gorman

Dr. Gorman understands that for our breast cancer patients, the COVID-19 pandemic is only increasing the stress and anxiety in an already challenging and uncertain time. However, with the Safe Care plan, we are doing everything we can to help our patients navigate and continue on their journey to recovery.


Exploring New Findings in Breast Cancer Research

The week of December 10, Dr. Valerie Gorman attended the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium to give a poster presentation for her research in 5-day SBRT radiation. This symposium is an opportunity for those involved in breast cancer research to share what they have learned.

The SABCS’ stated objective states that the conference “is designed to provide state-of-the-art information on the experimental biology, etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and therapy of breast cancer and premalignant breast disease, to an international audience of academic and private physicians and researchers.” Research is brought from all of these categories to be shared and help other practitioners improve their own research or treatments.

Dr. Gorman praises this conference for the multidisciplinary spread of study. As her breast cancer team is interdisciplinary, she can gather information that will interest every member of her team. She noted that there were presentations this year on “molecular studies on circulating tumor cells, more targeted therapies, and many other topics. Together with our oncology colleagues and team members, we’re able to use these to treat our patients in a collaborative, multidisciplinary fashion.”

For example, while Dr. Gorman does not specialize or perform chemotherapy treatment, she took note of several tailored researched studies into chemotherapy. There is new research being done on HER2 positive cancer, or breast cancer that tests positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2 protein excess is found in approximately 20% of breast cancers, caused by a gene mutation in the cancer cells. There is also chemotherapy targeting metastatic breast cancer, which is cancer that has spread beyond the point of origin–in this case, the breast and lymph nodes nearby. Patients with these cancers tend to have a lot of, and many kinds of chemo throughout their treatment. These new studies are helping us to learn how to “study the tumor and retailor the chemotherapy to the individual patient and their needs.”

The presentation that Dr. Gorman and her team were most interested in, however, came from the University of Florence in Italy. They presented on the ten-year results of breast cancer patients who had been treated with Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI), a treatment Dr. Gorman has been using and perfecting for many years.

The use of radiation therapy on breast cancer is a common occurrence. This treatment directs high energy rays directly at the cancerous area to kill any cancerous cells left over after surgery. Traditionally, radiation therapy is implemented over 30 days. This regimen includes visits every weekday for six weeks and can potentially lead to burns on the surrounding tissue as well as changes in the patient’s appearance. However, APBI shortens the number of days needed for the treatment. Some protocols of APBI give radiotherapy twice a day for five days, while others–including Dr. Gorman’s practice–only give it once a day for five days. While the treatment itself takes little time in office, doctors know transport and waiting room time can take up valuable time from the patient’s personal and work life. By minimizing how many office visits are required, these doctors are giving their patients more of their life back.
The presentation that the University of Florence gave reveals new results from patients ten years after their surgeries and radiotherapy treatments. The results found that survival rates at the ten-year mark for those who received APBI–as with the five-year mark–matched the survival rate of those who received longer treatments. However, APBI has better cosmetic results and less burn damage.

Dr. Gorman is pleased to know that this treatment helps her patients, not only by treating their breast cancer but also by lessening the impact that breast cancer has on their personal life. With few in-office treatments, there is less time away from the office or the family. The APBI also produces more favorable cosmetic results, which can help with a healthier mindset as you approach healing.
Dr. Gorman and her team offer APBI when necessary to provide the breast results and the least interference in her patients’ lives. They also provides necessary breast cancer surgery to best help a given case. As the Chief of Surgery and Medical Director of Surgical Service of Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Waxahachie, Dr. Valerie Gorman, MD, FACS is ready to answer your questions and design a personalized cancer treatment plan for you.


Breast Reconstruction Surgery: A Team Approach

Dr. Valerie Gorman, MD, FACS, is a breast cancer surgeon, board-certified by the American Board of Surgery. She specializes in surgical diseases of the breast and surgical oncology, serving as the Chief of Surgery and Medical Director of Surgical Services at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Waxahachie, Texas.

As she helps her patients through the process of learning their best options for cancer treatment and the most effective type of surgery to help, her staff works with her. But she also knows that she is not the last step in the healing process. It is common for breast surgery for cancer to require reconstruction. So Dr. Gorman has an established partnership with Dr. Potter that has now lasted more than 15 years.

Dr. Jason Potter, MD, DDS, is a plastic surgeon who serves the greater Dallas area and has affiliations with multiple hospitals and hospital systems. He is double board-certified, with his advanced surgical training focusing on reconstructive plastic surgery. He serves the greater Dallas area.

Dr. Gorman and Dr. Potter’s partnership is based on mutual respect for both each other and the patient. The two sat down in a joint interview to explain how their collaboration worked and how it benefitted the patient.

To start, Dr. Gorman was asked why she chose to work with Dr. Potter. She answered,

“We both have the same standard for our patients. He doesn’t do the easy way; he does the right thing for the patient. He can offer every option to our patients, so he’s not just limited to one kind of breast reconstruction. I think other plastic surgeons recommend what they do. And he does it all, so it makes it easy to recommend the best thing for each patient.”

Dr. Potter explained his reconstruction options:

“The two main types of reconstruction are either implant-based reconstruction or tissue-based reconstruction. Patients are not always a candidate for both. Sometimes there are limitations put on us by the patient’s body habitus, such as how much tissue they have to donate for breast reconstruction or prior surgeries that prevent utilizing tissue from certain areas. So most of the time, implants will always be available, but if patients have had multiple infections or have a history of radiation, there are higher complication rates for implant surgery.

However, some people don’t want an implant. They’ve never had an implant, and they never will have an implant. They just don’t want one. Implants require maintenance. You have a new device in the breast that has to be maintained, has to be monitored, and has to be replaced approximately every ten years. Whereas, when you have an all-tissue breast reconstruction, the patient doesn’t necessarily need other surgeries once they’ve completed the process because maintenance isn’t required. It’s really sitting down with the patient, seeing what co-morbidities or preferences they might have or bring to the table, and then selecting the best option.”

Several factors have to be taken into account when figuring the best approach to breast reconstruction. Dr. Gorman usually starts the process when discussing the initial breast cancer treatment.

“Usually, the patient is in my office first, so I try to get a good understanding of them, and I try to learn a little about what the patient would like to do. I usually have an idea of when he would like to offer somebody one or the other, considering the patient’s preference, their medical situation, their questions, and what they already know. I then go from there. Some factors I look for are if they’re a smoker, or if I see they’ve had several abdominal surgeries. If they’ve had radiation before, I know we’re going to have to do a flap to try to protect that implant, those kinds of things. I leave it open for Dr. Potter to use his expertise and talk to them about the pros and cons of each option available.

Some people don’t want a massive surgery. The flap is a longer, second operation, so many people want to avoid that. But in the long run, 20 years from now, that 8 hours in the operating room, they’re not going to remember that part. So, we try to talk them through what they want and what we think they’re tending to prefer and talk about the pros and cons. If they’re a smoker, there may be certain options that have reduced risk. Then we send them to Dr. Potter, and he finishes the conversation, and they make the final decision. And our offices coordinate scheduling whatever procedure we’ve decided together with the patient.”

Dr. Potter added:

“It’s a nice team approach. From the day they go into Dr. Gorman’s office, they’re starting to get questions answered; they begin to have reconstruction questions answered. As soon as they find out they’re going to need a mastectomy, they want to know what that next step will be. Dr. Gorman is very good at starting that discussion with them. After surgery, both offices work with the patients when they have issues in the postoperative period, so it’s a nice comprehensive approach to patient care. I think the patients really like it.”

Once the patients have met their doctors, the process can begin.

“Breast reconstruction is a process, so it’s not usually one operation and done. It starts the day of the mastectomy with either placement of a tissue expander (which is a temporary implant) or initial reconstruction using the patient’s own tissue in certain situations. But operations are usually staged about three months apart. So, if surgery was all the patient needed, they may complete reconstruction in six months or so. If they need chemotherapy or if they need radiation, they may not complete the reconstruction process for nine to twelve months. It’s kind of hard to say exactly how quickly they can have their surgery, but they’re staged depending on the procedure and patient’s needs and other treatments.”

Dr. Gorman said about the stages:

“A lot of people come in and say, ‘I want it all done in one operation,’ which we can sometimes do. But we talk to the patient about how sometimes that’s not the best solution for them because they’re going to end up having another operation down the road anyway. So, whether it’s one stage or two-stage, we tend to go with two-stage for improved cosmetic outcomes. Once again, those are just the different options we offer.

Another variation of the reconstruction options mentioned above is whether the DIEP flaps procedure is being performed. Dr. Potter is well known for his ability to perform this operation.

“Not everyone does the flaps. That’s a big operation, and Dr. Potter does a significantly high volume of these. He’s the DIEP flaps guy. If you mention DIEP flaps to anybody, his name comes up. We offer that to our patients, which is awesome.”

Dr. Potter gave a little more detail into the DIEP procedure, saying:

“It’s a complex reconstructive procedure. Not every surgeon offers these techniques. Because of its complexity, patients are better served by an experienced team like ours. For the last 13 years, we’ve been providing that operation in Dallas. We have a very efficient team, which is important for patients so that they’re not under anesthesia too long. We’re also refining the technique and leading some of the advances. We are are now providing Resensate™ to candidate patients. Resensate is a technique to provide reinnervation to the breast.”

Reinnervation is the restoration of nerves to a place where there has been nerve damage, like a surgical site. This has been a concern of plastic surgeons for as long as this has been a profession. To explain the importance of Resensate and its work in reinnervation, as well as patient expectations, Dr. Gorman explained,

“The biggest thing when you’re educating patients about breast reconstruction after they get a mastectomy is that they’ll say, ‘oh well, my friend had implants, so this is kind of like that, at least I get a breast augmentation and implants like my friend did.’ And then you have to remind them, ‘your friend kept her breast, and yes, she has the same implants in there, but it’s very different.’ And the sensation is the most significant difference there probably. The way they feel and look are different, too, but the sensation is very different. And we have heard a wide variety of comments from patients who have had this procedure, from ‘they feel like they are floating in front of me,’ to ‘I have some intermittent feeling, it comes back over months,’ to somewhere in between. I think that’s the most significant difference, once they get over the initial surgery and diagnosis and treatment. Settling back into everyday life, it is a constant reminder. It is hard to forget what they’ve been through because it is so different. So gaining feeling back will be huge because it is one of the big reminders for them.”

Now that there is a general understanding of the types of breast reconstruction and the process of moving between the breast cancer surgeon to the plastic surgeon, Dr. Potter discussed some of the common questions he gets asked at appointments.

“There are lots of questions about tissue-based operations versus implant-based operations. There are lots of questions about the types of implants given, and the recent Allergen textured surface recall. And really, the most common question is ‘which operation is best for me? We try to take patients through that question because that discussion is never the same for any two patients. Recovery is always a concern. Most questions here deal with downtime, recovery, time off work, and number of surgeries.

Recovery varies with the operation and the patient. With the first operation–the mastectomy and the tissue expander–it can be anywhere from 2-4 weeks of downtime. Implant surgeries are usually less downtime for the first stage, and tissue surgeries can be up to 6-8 weeks, depending on what they choose.”

The recent concerns about textured implants have resulted in many questions regarding implant safety. He continued,

“Overall, implants are very safe. A recently identified process called Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma has brought renewed scrutiny to breast implants. Allergen was asked to voluntarily recall their textured surface implant line because 80% of the cases found worldwide were associated with that implant surface. But it’s an extremely rare process.

Despite its rare occurrence, many patients going through breast cancer treatment do not want to worry about other potential problems linked to the reconstruction. This is leading more patients to inquire about tissue-based options.”

In summary, whether receiving a tissue or implant breast reconstructive surgery, Drs. Potter and Gorman know to listen to you, to listen to each other, and work with the best materials to ensure the best outcome for you.

When asked for their final thoughts, Dr. Gorman had this to say,

“The team we’ve formed between our offices and the options we offer together are what I want to emphasize. Between the two of us, we can more thoroughly follow-up. If a patient goes to see him, he will ask me any questions that need asking. If they need to have drains removed but don’t want to drive all the way to him, they can stop in our office to get them taken out. We do a lot of that for the patient, which I think is pretty great for them. We navigate them through the post-breast reconstruction hassle. We can say ‘yes, we’ve talked to them, you’re good to go here or do this’ so they don’t have to go back and forth between us and say ‘well Dr. Gorman said this’ then they say ‘well Dr. Potter said to let you know that.’ This way, the patient doesn’t have to do all that on their own.”

Dr. Potter followed up in agreement.

“It is a very personal, very comprehensive approach. Patients are going to appreciate the individualized attention that they are going to get every step of the way. And the way our offices work together, it helps to coordinate and make sure the patient doesn’t have to determine which office to go to.”

Drs. Potter and Gorman work cohesively to ensure their patients are receiving the best care. By staying in contact, there is no risk of loss of information. By working with each other consistently, they learn how the other works and can better inform patients on what to expect. Dr. Potter’s expertise in types of breast reconstruction and Dr. Gorman’s cancer-oriented breast surgery go hand in hand to create a strong team approach for treatment, recovery, and your best outcome.


The Path to Breast Cancer Surgery Recovery

Breast cancer and accompanying treatment can be a grueling experience, both physically and emotionally. And while relief can come with successful surgery, recovery can difficult. Here is some information about what to expect from recovery and a few tips to make it easier.

Your Hospital Stay

After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for the first steps of recovery. How much time you spend in the hospital differs depending on the type of surgery, whether it was outpatient or inpatient, whether reconstruction was performed, and other factors.

A lumpectomy is traditionally an outpatient procedure. It does not require an extended stay in the hospital—less than 23 hours—as the stay is merely to give the surgeon and nurses enough time to make sure there are no adverse aftereffects. Once they are satisfied, you may leave the hospital to better rest and fully recover.

A mastectomy, however, can require an extended stay. When lymph nodes are removed, and breast reconstruction is performed, you may have to stay in the hospital 1-2 days. Without the reconstruction, this may drop to overnight, though this is still considered an inpatient procedure. More complex reconstruction may require a longer stay. Always ask your doctor how long they expect you will have to stay before you can leave the hospital.

Anesthesia

Anesthesia keeps a patient unconscious, painless, and calm during surgery and is carefully catered to each patient’s needs. Medications can be changed due to an individual’s allergies or previous experiences. Anesthesiologists will also adapt their medicines depending on the procedure. For example, general anesthesia is commonly used for these procedures.

General anesthesia can, in a small number of people, cause adverse reactions and symptoms. A sore throat can come from the tube placed in the throat to help with breathing during the procedure. Nausea, vomiting, delirium, itching, chills, and muscle aches are common side effects. Some may be caused by accompanying pain medication, but each sensation should pass rather quickly.

Pain

As with any surgery, some level of pain should be expected after breast surgery. Initially, this will come from the surgery itself, based around the incision sites and where the tissue was removed. If lymph nodes were removed, there would likely be more pain. As healing begins, the pain will settle more when you are still and be triggered more by a range of motion. As the breast, breast tissue, lymph nodes, and underlying muscles are so central to the body, almost any movement of the body can affect this area. Your surgeon will inject local anesthetic during surgery to reduce post-operation pain.

To help control pain levels, your surgeons will prescribe medication that will drop off into over-the-counter medicines that will drop off into no medication when you are ready. When the pain is still severe, you may be placed on something like tramadol for the early days. You will be weaned off of these drugs and onto over the counter pain medication within the first few days to prevent complications.

Drain

When tissue is removed from a surgical site, there is a risk of seroma. Seroma is a build-up of fluid to fill in a suddenly empty space in the body–a place where there once was tissue, and now there is not. Seroma can be uncomfortable or even painful, and can sometimes scar. To prevent this issue, the surgical team will place a drain in the breast that removes any fluid that attempts to fill the healing space after a mastectomy.

After the surgery, you will be given instructions on how to care for your drains. You will be told how to empty them, what to look for in them, and when they will be removed. They will likely look like a small tube leaving–and stitched to–the breast that travels to a hand-sized bulb. This bulb will be kept in a compressed position, setting up a vacuum to pull out any fluids that should be pulled out.

The bulbs have measurement labels on their exterior so that you can easily see how much fluid has drained. You will have to keep track of these measurements as you empty, clean, and recompress the drains throughout the day. These numbers help determine how long the drain will stay in place.

Living with drains can be inconvenient until you get used to them. You must always be aware of the tubes, so they don’t catch on something. Though the bulbs tend to come with loops you can strap around your surgical bra’s straps to keep them out of the way, the tubes are still something to keep in mind. There are also belts and shirts explicitly made to hold drains and their tubes.

Bathing is also tricky with drains. While you have to wait until your doctor has said you will be alright to bathe in the first time, you should not submerge your drains, so a bath is not a good idea (for your drains or your scars). Most doctors recommend gently patting yourself clean and dry with a sponge bath.

There are a few factors that you need to pay more attention to in your drains than others. You should alert your surgeon if you start to notice signs of infection, fluid leaking around the tubing, drainage increasing, decreasing, or thickening, the bulb losing suction, bright red drainage, or if the drain falls out.

What to Wear After Surgery

One reason surgery can be intimidating is that you don’t know how you’ll look when the scars have healed, and the swelling has gone down. Even with breast reconstruction, there may be changes to your appearance. Clothing can be a touchy subject. Not only will it fit you differently, but you will be sensitive for a time as your body heals.

Bras, in particular, will be difficult. Surgical bras are given and recommended in some situations, which offer some support while putting minimal pressure on incisions. They clasp in the front to avoid instigating the pain that comes from moving too much. A nurse can help adjust it easily while in the hospital, and it can be used to hand the drains to keep them out of the way of your arm.

In the first weeks after surgery, you’ll likely want to stick to bras or shirts like made in this way. Clasps, buttons, or ties in the fronts. Pants or skirts that can be easily stepped into. Nothing overly complicated or that has to be pulled over the head. This will pull on the arm and shoulder, and therefore the sensitive muscles beneath the breast. Advice commonly given by previous patients of breast cancer surgery recommend loose tops and shirts for a while. Give yourself time to adjust to your new appearance with some comfortable wear.

For the first year after surgery, bras should have no underwire. The seams should be soft, and the band should be wide to minimize any pressure on one particular place. Cups should be both full and separated. And you’ll likely want to be fitted by an expert for your new bra size. Make sure to find someone who has the training, perhaps at a lingerie shop or department store to ensure the best fit.

If you are using a breast prosthesis, you may want to find a bra with a bra pocket. These are small pockets sewn into the inside of the bra to hold a prosthetic in place. Mastectomy bras can be purchased with the pocket, or you can adapt a regular bra by sewing a pocket in yourself. Or, many find, a regular bra with a full cup that fits well enough will hold a prosthetic without a pocket. Of course, it all depends on your comfort level and what you like best.

Movement and Exercise

After breast cancer surgery–and other breast cancer treatment like radiotherapy–it can be essential to keep the affected muscles moving. Yes, they are sensitive and difficult to move. But that is precisely why you must exercise them. You don’t want them to weaken or stiffen further from disuse.

Exercise, in this case, does not mean a workout. Overworking your arms and shoulders in this condition would be easy and could be harmful. But simple exercises and movements to ensure that everything is staying in use will help in the long run. Within the first week of surgery–the first 3-7 days, if possible–you should start with the easiest movements. Use the arm on the side of the surgical site to comb your hair, practice deep breathing approximately six times a day, and raise the affected arm above the head (lay it on a pillow, so it is above) and clasp your hands open and closed 15-25 times. These are simple exercises you can do without straining too much or even getting out of bed.

Once you’ve healed more and your surgeon gives the okay, you may start other exercises. Again, these are not particularly strenuous. You are still recovering. Your muscles are not prepared to comfortably remain above your head long enough to pull a shirt on, let alone lift weights. These exercises are merely meant to keep the muscles in the area near the operation flexible. Side effects of any major surgery can be weakening of unused muscles and difficulty getting back to full strength. If you practice these minor arm exercises early, you can prevent these.

Some simple exercises can be done while sitting at your table. The Shoulder Blade Stretch is done while facing the table with your palms placed on its surface. Your back should be straight, the unaffected arm (the arm away from the surgical area) should be bent slightly. The affected arm (closest to the surgical area) should be straight. Without turning your body, slowly slide your affected arm forward until you can feel your shoulder blade moving. Relax, then slowly pull your arm back. Then you repeat 5-7 times.

If you prefer to lay down while you stretch, you can try Elbow Winging. This stretch helps the movement of the shoulders and the chest and is performed while lying on your back. It can do this stretch on a bed or the floor (whatever is most comfortable for you and your stage of healing). Once you are lying flat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your neck and clasp them together, bringing your elbows up, so they point up towards the ceiling. Carefully press your elbows out and down towards the floor. This will take a while. Your first attempt after your operation will likely not reach the floor. But as you heal, you will get closer and closer. Repeat this motion 5-7 times.

Be careful not to push yourself too soon after surgery. Wait until a surgeon has said it will be okay to exercise, so you don’t strain your wound. But remember that when you get the chance, moving is an integral part of healing.

Recovery

Recovery is unique for each person. Some feel no aftereffects from anesthesia while others hate what it does to them. Some patients’ only clothing issues come from adjusting to the surgical bra they are given immediately after surgery, while others take longer to adjust to their new appearance. Recovery is not a straight path. It is a branching and varying road from breast cancer to health. But it’s not one traveled alone.

Not only will you have your support network of family members and friends, but your medical team is there to support you as well. The surgical team will work with you to find your best procedure, find your best medications based on experience and family history, and prepare you for recovery.

Dr. Valerie Gorman knows about the concerns and fears that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. But she and her team will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your needs and lifestyle and help you find the easiest recovery path.

Dr. Gorman’s team have walked alongside many people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and understand your situation. It is our privilege to walk with you, answer your questions, and help you through this difficult process.


The Cost of Breast Cancer Treatment: What are the Contributing Factors?

In a recent survey of patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, 38% said they were worried about finances due to their treatment. 14% said that their breast cancer cost them at least 10% of their household income. 17% said that they had spent even more than that 10% on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

When doctors, surgeons, and radiation oncologists were asked about how their offices handle financial discussions with their patients, 50% of medical oncologists reported that someone in their practice “often or always discusses financial burden” with their patients. 43% of radiation oncologists said they did as well. Only 16% of surgeons reported the same.

Furthermore, no one seems to know, going in, just how far a diagnosis of breast cancer is going to set them back financially. It is difficult to find answers about the cost of treatment, whether for surgery, radiation, or other medications. We are taking this chance to clear the air between doctors and patients; we can give the answers that so many have been looking for and help to start the conversation so you can be prepared should this diagnosis ever come your way.

Total Costs

In 2010, breast cancer was the highest-costing cancer in the United States. Nationwide, it cost a total of $16.5 billion. By 2020, this is expected to increase to $20.5 billion. The American Cancer Society estimates that over $180 billion is spent on health care expenses and lost productivity every year due to cancer.

Of course, each person’s case is unique. Their access to insurance must be taken into consideration. Different stages of cancer are harder to treat than others, which can affect overall treatment costs. Not to mention that disease takes root differently in each person, so it must be treated differently. And with no one-size-fits-all treatment, there is no one-size-fits-all price tag. All of these factors must be considered.

Stages

The stage at which a patient’s breast cancer is discovered significantly affects how difficult it is to treat. A study was done recently and published in The American Health and Drug Benefits1 on the cost and frequency of some treatments based on the cancer stage and how long it had been since the diagnosis.

It was not much of a surprise to find that those patients with more advanced stages of breast cancer spent more on treatments. For those with stage 0 cancer, the average cost of treatment at twelve months after diagnosis was $60, 637. After twenty-four months, the price had jumped to $71, 909 per patient overall.

For those whose cancer had advanced to stages I-II, their medical costs were approximately $82,121 in the first twelve months of treatment. In the second twelve months, each patient still in the study brought the total average to $97, 066.

With breast cancer in stage III, the average cost in the first twelve months continued to rise to $129,387. After a full twenty-four months, the study reported that patients spent an average of $159,442.

At stage IV, the most difficult to treat, the average treatment costs were $134,682 at twelve months and $182,655 at twenty-four.

According to the study, patients were paying an average of $85,772 within the first twelve months of being diagnosed with breast cancer, despite their cancer stage. And within the first two years of their diagnosis, the study reported their treatment costs averaging $103,735.

Treatments

Another major factor that will contribute to the overall cost of breast cancer treatment is the kind of treatment a patient is receiving. Which treatment you receive depends on the location, cancer stage, and extent to which the disease has spread. Sometimes the procedures are combined to get the best results and return you to health quicker and more effectively. The same study mentioned above also explored the average amount spent on categories of treatments, and how common these kinds of treatments were within the given periods.

Surgery

Surgery is a standard treatment for a breast cancer diagnosis. If applicable, it is a way to remove cancer physically from where it has taken root. Altogether, surgical treatment accounts for an average of 20% of the cost of breast cancer care treatments within the first year after diagnosis, and 4% in the second year.

  • Inpatient breast cancer surgery accounts for 6% of the cost treatment in the first year, and 2% in the second year. In the first year of treatment, the cost of breast cancer surgery is, on average, $4,762, while in the second year after diagnosis, the cost is approximately $347.
  • Outpatient breast cancer surgery accounts for approximately 14% of the price of breast cancer treatment in the first twelve months, and 2% in the second. The cost of outpatient surgery in the first and second years were found to be, on average, $11,691 and $389 respectively.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is another well-known treatment of cancer. It accounts for approximately 19% of breast cancer treatment in both the first and second year after diagnosis.

  • For general chemotherapy, the average cost (including all costs on the day of the treatment) in the first year is $15,113. As this accounts for 18% of the payment for treatment for breast cancer, this is particularly significant. In the second year post-diagnosis, the average cost for this treatment is $3,625. This makes up 16% of all breast cancer treatment costs.
  • Oral chemotherapy is far less conventional. It only accounts for approximately 1% of the costs of first-year treatment, and 3% in the second year. Patients are usually paying $432 in their first year and $636 in their second year for this treatment.

Radiation

Radiation is used to kill the tumors by damaging cancer cells’ DNA. It is often used in combination with surgery. It makes up 18% of diagnosis treatment costs in the first year and 3% in the second year. In the first year, it costs an average of $15,455, while in the second year, patients pay $638.

Medication

Hand in hand with these major treatments come medications. Medications make up for 3% of the first year’s medical payments, and 7% of the second year. That equates to approximately $2,258 and $1,510 respectively.

Other Treatments

There are, of course, other treatments. Smaller subcategories that don’t quite fit these above, including hormone therapy, additional inpatient or outpatient care, or professional or specialist care. They make up about 42% of potential treatment costs in the first year and 67% of costs in the second year. That equates to $35,762 in the first twelve months and $14,980 in the second.

Health Insurance

Another factor that contributes to the overall cost of breast cancer treatment is health insurance. Healthcare, the amount of coverage you have, and the type of coverage you have, are all essential to discuss with your doctor, oncologist, and surgical team to make sure you understand where you stand.

Researchers in North Carolina found that patients who received a cancer diagnosis and did not have insurance or Medicare paid $6,711 for medication, while those with insurance paid $3,616 and those with Medicare paid $3,090 simply because they do not have the means to negotiate for a lower price.

Often, clinical appointments are more costly, as well. Where an insured patient might pay approximately $65-246, a patient without insurance coverage would pay around $129-391.

Ask Questions/Dr. Gorman

Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer is near impossible to imagine, and even harder to plan for. But if you ever find yourself in that place, you have a little more knowledge about what to expect. One should always be prepared for the unexpected, and it never hurts to have a little money saved up for emergencies. But breast cancer treatment costs will require more than just a bit of your savings. However, with communication with your team and laying out your healthcare terms and concerns as you discuss your health plan, everyone can be on the same page and do what they can to work within your needs.

Dr. Valerie Gorman knows about the financial burden that comes with breast cancer. She is dedicated to offering her patients a personalized approach to breast surgery and the treatment of breast cancer. She and her team will help to create a treatment plan that best meets your needs, and most fits your lifestyle. Because of the experience and breadth of our specialists, a multitude of treatment options exists which can be tailored to your situation.

There is no need to panic when you hear the word cancer. We have walked alongside many people who have been diagnosed and understand your fears and concerns. It is our privilege to walk with you and help you through this difficult process.

 

 

 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822976/#idm139828318640480title

 

 


What is Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery?

When someone is first diagnosed with breast cancer, their first concern is not often about their appearance. They might first consider prognosis. Can the surgeons get the cancer out? What are the treatment options? But if surgery is necessary, the cosmetic applications are a consideration. Your breast cancer team wants you to have the best results possible, including minimal scarring.

Breast Cancer Surgery

There is more than one way to remove tumors and cancerous cells surgically. Surgery options for the more extreme cases are the simple or total mastectomy, the radical mastectomy, and the double mastectomy. For the less severe cases are the lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, the nipple-sparing mastectomy, and the skin-sparing mastectomy. While these are still serious surgeries, these procedures can allow the patient to keep more of their natural breast shape with less dramatic scarring. While the type of procedure can certainly depend on how big the tumor or cancerous area is, treatment ultimately comes down to you, the patient, and your needs.

Breast Cancer Scars

The different variations of surgical procedures lead to different appearances, sizes, and locations for scars. With a total mastectomy, where all of the breast tissue, skin, and the nipple are removed, there will be a noticeable change in appearance. That area of the chest will be flat, and there will be a visibly large scar where the breast was.

With a skin-sparing mastectomy, the skin remains, but the nipple and breast tissue are removed. There is some room for reconstruction here under the skin, but there will still be a medium- to large-sized and prominent scar across the front of the breast.

A nipple-sparing mastectomy, however, leaves the skin and nipple and takes only the breast tissue and tumor. The scar traditionally branches off from the areola towards the armpit. It is still on the medium to large side of the scale and quite noticeable.

A lumpectomy only removes a portion of the breast tissue–that closes to the tumor–to ensure that none of the tumor is missed. This, too, can leave a large scar, which is quite visible depending on the location of the tumor and the surgeon’s approach.

All of these treatment options and their variations can be very effective with a skilled surgeon and oncology centers you are comfortable with. But they can leave a noticeable scar that many patients find a disheartening reminder:

  • 72% of women did not realize how uncomfortable their breast cancer surgery scars would make them feel when undressed
  • 72% of women are not displeased with the location of their scar
  • 76% of women did not realize how uncomfortable their surgery scars would make them feel when someone else sees them undressed
  • 82% of women have not worn a particular item of clothing because it reveals their breast cancer surgery scars
  • 87% of women are self-conscious due to their scars

Hidden ScarTM Breast Cancer Surgery

In 2015, Invuity launched a new surgical approach to assist with just this issue. The Hidden ScarTM Breast Cancer surgery program was created to help surgeons and patients by offering less invasive methods of performing the surgery.

The Hidden Scar procedure allows for a smaller incision while still providing light in the surgical site, permitting the surgeons to treat the cancer and remove the tumor while still preserving as much of the breast’s natural shape as possible. More than that, this hidden scar process offers better cosmetic results by, as the name suggests, hiding the scars in the body’s natural folds.

Hidden Scar Mastectomy

For a nipple-sparing mastectomy, the Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery scar will dramatically decrease. There can be no evidence of any cancer within the nipple for Hidden Scar Surgery, and this surgery is best suited to patients who have non-invasive cancer.

The Hidden Scar mastectomy is performed by making an incision in the inframammary fold, or the natural fold under your breast. It will naturally be hidden by the fall your breast and its small size.

Hidden Scar Lumpectomy

A Hidden Scar Lumpectomy offers options for where the incision will go, depending on where the cancer is located in the breast.

  • The Axilla, or under the armpit. The scar is usually hidden in a natural fold.
  • Around the edges of the areola. Many patients prefer this option, as the scaring is minimal and hidden even when wearing a petite bikini top.
  • The Inframammary fold – like the mastectomy.

Dr. Gorman and Hidden Scar

Dr. Valerie Gorman and her team have experience with the Hidden Scar approach. They have performed Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery and understand the differences and options that come from each approach to oncological surgery. Dr. Gorman knows that it is important to discuss all of your options when it comes to your health and will answer any questions you may have until you can come to a conclusion with which you are happy. Contact the Texas Breast Center in Waxahachie to make an appointment and have any questions answered.

 


The BioZorb Marker Could Help Post-Surgical Breast Cancer Results and Clinical Imaging

What is BioZorb?

The BioZorb marker is a medical device meant to be implanted in the surgical site. Thanks to its open structure, it can be stitched into place by breast surgeons to avoid movement and allow the surrounding tissue to grow around the device after the procedure. The marker has six titanium clips that are used for future clinical imaging.

What is BioZorb Made of?

The structure itself is made of a material that is bioabsorbable, or able to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, as the tissue grows and reforms, the BioZorb can be absorbed, leaving behind only the titanium clips as tissue markers for imaging if necessary. This process takes approximately a year.

How Does BioZorb Help?

Using a BioZorb implant in breast cancer treatment can be helpful surgically, cosmetically, and with radiation treatment. Surgically, the implant–or the titanium clips if the implant has already been absorbed–can provide a perfect reference point for any future imaging for where the previous breast surgery and radiation procedures took place.

It can also assist with the structure of healing, which lends itself to improved breast cosmesis. Often with tumor removal, the breast can appear concave where the tissue grew in to fill the void the tumor left. However, BioZorb offers structure for the surrounding tissue to grow around to prevent any potential divots. This can sometimes help with oncoplastic surgery or post-lumpectomy cosmetic surgery. As for radiation therapy, the implant can provide a target for the beam to minimize the radiation damaging any surrounding tissue unnecessarily.

What are some facts about BioZorb?

Your doctor is placing an implant into your breast during this surgery. The implant is firm, but not painful and can usually be felt in the breast for 12 to 18 months, even once the surgical scars have healed. It will eventually be absorbed by the body.

When should BioZorb be used?

It is not uncommon for a patient to react strongly when they hear a diagnosis of breast cancer. They may want to avoid any risk and go straight for the total mastectomy, removing the full breast and therefore the cancer.

However, with a breast cancer team working with you on your treatment, there is more room for a personalized approach. The cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, or a combination of the two, and when it is caught at an early stage, a total mastectomy is not needed. A lumpectomy can remove a tumor while leaving most of the breast intact.

It is in these cases that BioZorb is useful. When a patient is able to receive breast-conserving surgery, the cancerous tissue is removed by the breast surgeon, and then the skin is closed. From there, radiation may be administered by a radiation oncologist to reduce the risk of recurrence without damaging the surrounding tissue. This can be difficult without something in the breast to mark where the surgery took place. Sometimes, the empty space of the surgical site where the tumor was will fill with a liquid, forming a seroma, and this can be an indication of where to radiate.

However, if BioZorb is placed in the breast during surgery, the metal marker clips work like a road sign pointing the way for the radiologist to follow. Even after the body absorbs the coils, the clips remain in case they are needed again for imaging purposes.

Dr. Gorman and BioZorb

Dr. Valerie Gorman uses BioZorb in applicable cases to help her patients recover with less pain, less cosmetic adjustment, and more accurate imaging. But she did not take this step lightly. Before jumping all in with BioZorb, she was involved with a study testing accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) using her preferred intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). The IMRT was directed in each of the 57 cases by a BioZorb device to keep the radiation localized.

They found that, in the follow-up visits, the cosmetic results were excellent on all accounts. Only one patient experienced pain in the area, at it was easily treated. Patients were pleased with the results.

Dr. Gorman has worked with BioZorb before, and she and her team know the benefits it can bring. She will answer any questions you have. She always wants you to be comfortable and knowledgeable about your treatment, which is why she has done her own research into BioZorb. She wants you to receive the best treatment and best results long term.


Is Chemotherapy Necessary Before or After Breast Cancer Surgery, or At All?

Is Chemo necessary for breast cancerChemotherapy is an effective way to treat and prevent the spread of breast cancer, but new research suggests it is not always necessary.

A recent study found that breast cancer has been highly over treated with chemotherapy and doctors can now confidently provide an alternative treatment known as Endocrine Therapy.

However, each patient is different with a unique set of circumstances. Chemotherapy is necessary in advanced stages, as well as early stages when specific characteristics are present, such as spreading to the lymph nodes or other body parts.

Continue reading “Is Chemotherapy Necessary Before or After Breast Cancer Surgery, or At All?” »


Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Procedure: Key Facts You Need To Know

Cancer is perhaps the scariest word in the dictionary, capable of striking fear into the heart of anyone who hears it inside of a second. Part of the problem is that the minute a doctor says that word, anything that he or she says subsequently becomes a total blur. It is like the patient is trying to listen to the doctor while being underwater. That’s the reason we have a resource section on our site. This article answers questions about the procedure for a biopsy of the sentinel lymph node.

Continue reading “Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Procedure: Key Facts You Need To Know” »


Lumpectomy Surgery Recovery – What To Expect

lumpectomy surgery recoveryHumans by their very nature do not like the unknown, which might explain why one of the most frequent questions we are asked at the Texas Breast Center is what to expect regarding your lumpectomy surgery recovery.

This is something that Dr. Gorman always explains in great detail, before the operation as it is essential that our patients have the proper care and support systems in place so that they can recover quickly.

The good news is that due to advances in technology, for most women having a lumpectomy procedure there is no need for an overnight stay. Nobody likes the thought of spending time in a hospital bed, so this normally brings a great deal of relief to our patients, being able to go home to your bed, and be surrounded by your family is an excellent way to start the recovery process.
Continue reading “Lumpectomy Surgery Recovery – What To Expect” »


How Developments In Breast Cancer Research Have Improved Treatment In The Last Thirty Years

breast cancer treatmentWe want to feature a recent study by Rufus Mark, MD, Gail Lebovic, MD, Valerie Gorman, MD, Oscar Calvo, PhD. on recent developments in Breast Cancer Treatment.

Continue reading “How Developments In Breast Cancer Research Have Improved Treatment In The Last Thirty Years” »


Streamlined Treatment for Breast Cancer Reduces Your Treatment Time

Partial breast radiation offered by Dr. Valerie Gorman, Breast Surgeon at Texas Breast Center, may reduce some treatment time by two-thirds.New radiation option cuts time by two-thirds

By Valerie Gorman, MD, FACS, Breast Surgeon at Texas Surgical Specialists

If you receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, it can be overwhelming. You’ll have to sort through a lot of information quickly and make decisions about what treatment is best for you.

For many of my patients with early stage breast cancer, lumpectomy – removing the tumor surgically – is the recommended treatment option. But you have to have radiation after a lumpectomy. That’s part of the package.

Continue reading “Streamlined Treatment for Breast Cancer Reduces Your Treatment Time” »