Blending Expertise And Empathy In Breast Cancer Care

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Training matters. It’s apparent in the performances of athletes and musicians. And it benefits patients when physicians pursue additional training to advance their skills.

After completing five years of post-medical school training in general surgery, Selyne Samuel, MD, a breast surgical oncologist, knew she wanted to delve even deeper into helping women who have breast cancer.

She accepted a fellowship in breast surgery at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital in northern Ohio. As a fellowship-trained breast surgical oncologist for Premier Health, Dr. Samuel is up-to-date on the latest surgical advances, recommendations, and guidelines for women who have or are at high risk of getting breast cancer. She has studied genetics and the biology of breast tumors for a greater understanding of which treatment options work best for which cancers.

Dr. Samuel has expertise in noninvasive breast biopsies in her office and procedures like nipple-sparing mastectomies in the operating room. 

“More surgeons are undergoing fellowship training to be on top of their areas of interest,” Dr. Samuel says. “It’s about being really good in your niche.”

In addition to her technical expertise, she is noted for the warmth and empathy she brings to her conversations with patients. “Breast cancer can be a very scary diagnosis. I’m working side by side with a woman who comes with emotions and responsibilities as a mother or wife. We work together to get her back to her quality of life.”

She thoroughly enjoys seeing women transform from worried and concerned to giddy and relieved when they learn they are cancer free. Dr. Samuel often likes to do a little dance with her patients when they finish their treatment.

“About 50 to 60 percent of cases we see are benign. And with breast cancers, if patients are treated early, the overall survival rate is great,” Dr. Samuel notes.

A Combined Effort

Working in collaboration with Dr. Samuel at Premier Health is an entire team of people who specialize in cancer care. If you have breast cancer, you can rest assured you won’t be alone in your journey. Oncology nurse navigators guide you through diagnosis, treatment and beyond, providing education, answering questions, and helping you to coordinate next steps for care.

Medical oncologists, who treat cancer with chemotherapies and immunotherapies (medicines that boost your own immune system), work closely with surgeons and radiation oncologists to create a personalized plan designed to give each woman the care she needs at the right time.

Many others add their skills as well: social workers to connect you with community resources and support, exercise physiologists to improve physical health and mobility, physical therapists to help manage and reduce side effects of treatment, counselors to address the stresses of the disease, dietitians to help design an appetizing, healthy diet, and others who provide care in the home, if needed.

Leveraging Expertise Near And Far

Through a unique affiliation, Premier Health cancer specialists have access to best practices in cancer treatment, prevention, early detection, and follow-up care — all developed by a world-renowned cancer center. In Southwest Ohio, Premier Health is the only certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

This affiliation means that the cancer care offered by Premier Health meets the standards of one of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals. Patients in the region can receive care close to home, knowing their cancer specialists at Premier Health have direct access to consult and collaborate with MD Anderson Cancer Network physicians in peer-to-peer consultations when needed.

In addition, MD Anderson Cancer Network physicians review charts from certified physicians at Premier Health to provide feedback for quality improvement and ensure national treatment guidelines are being followed.  

“Being connected to these experts from MD Anderson Cancer Network means speed,” says general surgeon Zachary Simmons, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network-certified physician. “They provide information quickly, sometimes within hours, because of the amazing relationships we’ve established. Our patients don’t have to get their own second opinions from other academic medical centers, because they can trust that Premier Health is focused on their care. And our certified membership means we have access to additional information that can help impact their care.”

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