Plastic Surgeons, Breast Surgeons Urge Team Approach
Breast Cancer Survivors, Physicians, Advocacy Groups, Medical Societies, Manufacturers, Press Cite Vastly Improved Quality of Life for Patients
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Advocating the need for a medical Team Approach in the treatment and recovery from breast cancer, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), in partnership with the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS), urges breast cancer patients and their physicians to insist that their treatment be handled by a team of healthcare physicians with the appropriate expertise for each procedure and level of care.
The Team Approach to breast cancer care brings together an interdisciplinary group of key medical professionals - gynecologist, radiologist, breast surgeon, medical oncologist, and a plastic surgeon - who work together at the onset of a woman's breast cancer diagnosis to develop and implement a treatment plan tailored for each patient. When the Team Approach is implemented at the time of diagnosis through treatment and recovery, it can result in significantly improved patient outcomes and quality of life.
"Each step of the cancer care journey requires specific medical expertise. When a team of experts works together, the outcome for patients is vastly improved," said ASPS President Michael McGuire, MD. "However, when these specialists do not work in conjunction, opportunities are missed, and patient outcomes suffer. The problem is the Team Approach is underutilized. The ASPS is very pleased to be part of this extremely important venture along with the ASBS which represents physicians who play a critical role in the Team Approach."
The ASPS, ASBS, physicians, breast cancer survivors, advocacy groups, manufacturers, and the media recently met in New York to discuss the critical role the Team Approach plays during an event entitled, "Connecting the Docs: The Team Approach to Breast Cancer Care." Leading manufacturers of breast reconstruction products - Allergan Medical, LifeCell, and Mentor - were in attendance lending their support for the Team Approach.
During the event, a team of New York-based physicians who practice the Team Approach including an obstetrician/gynecologist, radiologist, breast surgeon, oncologist, and plastic surgeon emphasized the importance of their individual role in the team. One of their patients, a breast cancer survivor, joined the panel, discussing how this unified approach positively affected her outcome as she went through one of the most difficult times in her life.
"We're very excited about 'Connecting the Docs: The Team Approach to Breast Cancer Care' because this helps to start the conversation - to get the word out to all women," said Patrick Whitworth, MD, ASBS Past Chairman of the Board. "Sometimes the medical community changes when patients start saying 'Hey doc, I heard you're supposed to be working with a plastic surgeon here.' Women diagnosed with breast cancer have the power, authority, and right to ask for the Team Approach and, with their voices, perhaps the 'team' can become standard practice."
An alarming statistic discussed at length at the New York event underscores the importance of the Team Approach: nearly 70 percent of women who are eligible for breast reconstruction are not informed of their reconstructive options by a referring physician. The number is even higher for minority women.
"Like a sporting event, theatrical performance or an orchestra, each team member is an expert in their respective roles," said panelist and ASPS Vice President Scot Glasberg, MD. "A plastic surgeon's role on the team is to ensure that the patient knows all of her reconstructive options before her cancer is treated and removed, and that the best reconstructive procedure is performed. If the patient isn't given the chance to consider her reconstructive options before mastectomy, or the procedure is performed by someone who is not board-certified in that field of expertise, it can have a significantly negative effect on their quality of life beyond the disease."
Those in attendance also expressed how essential it is that the team be implemented when a woman is first diagnosed so that she, and her physicians can understand all of her options and make informed decisions.
"The vast majority of breast cancer patients are missing out on a critical conversation that should take place at the time of diagnosis," said Dr. McGuire. "Involving key specialists early in the process and having them work as a team allows for more coordinated care and fosters the most beneficial outcome for the patient, as the election for breast reconstruction affects the techniques surgeons use to remove the cancer."
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 7,000 physician members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 93 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.