Responding to the great need in our community, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island recently launched a full suite of programs for women with breast cancer, and others deemed high risk for the disease.
The programs are guided by Dr. Sunny Mitchell, Associate Chair of Surgery, Director of Women’s Health, who is also a Breast Surgical Oncologist.
“Area residents now have easy access to a full breast program,” Dr. Mitchell said. “This is new to the community—people have access to these amazing resources. It’s optimal care.”
Coney Island Hospital’s breast health program includes education and monitoring for women who may be at greater risk of breast cancer, along with some of the latest surgical and other treatment options when there is a cancer diagnosis, and follow-up for survivors.
Someone can be designated “high risk” because of a family history of breast cancer or by testing positive for a gene shown to increase one’s risk of developing cancer. These patients have several options, Dr. Mitchell said, which are guided by national protocols. After being deemed high-risk, the patient sits down with a breast surgeon at Coney Island Hospital to discuss both surgical and non-surgical options. The emphasis in these conversations is on education.
Non-surgical options for high-risk patients include ongoing monitoring using clinical exams, mammograms, ultrasounds and/or MRIs; counseling on exercise and nutrition; and the chance to join active research studies or registries.
High-risk patients sometime opt for pre-emptive surgery and breast reconstruction, Dr. Mitchell said. Drugs that suppress estrogen – which is linked to a number of breast cancers — may also be recommended.
Coney Island Hospital seeks to employ the latest techniques in breast surgery, said Dr. Mitchell, who also instructs other breast surgeons at the hospital.
One of these techniques, oncoplastics, employs incisions which can be hidden, leaving behind a scar in the arm pit or breast fold. The focus is on preserving the shape, size and contour of the breast, Dr. Mitchell said.
Coney Island Hospital’s breast surgeons work with a team of oncologists to coordinate post- surgical treatment, such as chemotherapy, which is offered on-site; and/or radiation therapy, which is provided at a number of area locations.
The hospital coordinates a multi-disciplinary breast tumor board, which meets weekly, Dr. Mitchell said. Radiation oncologists who treat Coney Island Hospital patients come to the tumor board meetings, she said. “It’s a very team oriented approach….all under one umbrella.”
Coney Island Hospital offers additional support for women diagnosed with breast cancer and/or those who are high risk, which addresses some of the psycho-social and emotional impacts of the disease. The programs are made possible through a partnership with NYC Gilda’s Club and the American Cancer Society, and support from the NYS Department of Health and Susan Komen Foundation.
Bi-lingual (English / Spanish) materials and classes about breast health
Look Good Feel Better program for those undergoing treatment
Check out CIH’s calendar here to see what is available this month.
All of these services are available to the entire community, Dr. Mitchell said. Patients come from as far away as Manhattan, the Bronx, and Long Island.
Any community member who thinks they may be at higher risk for breast cancer is welcome to contact Dr. Mitchell’s office. She stressed that CIH will see people regardless of insurance status.
Dr. Mitchell encourages all women to conduct regular breast self-exams. If you notice any changes, “just come on in…often times it’s nothing,” she said. And if there is a breast cancer diagnosis, the disease has become highly treatable, she stressed. The sooner a problem is found, the sooner it can be addressed.
“This is a community that has been in need of resources and we’re very, very happy that we’ve had such support from multiple resources to get everything going and provide the care that all women deserve to have,” Dr. Mitchell said.
To make an appointment with NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island Hospital, call 1-844- UR- CONEY.
This article is part of a series about resources available to residents at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island.