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Bronxville Surgeon Tracks Breast Cancer Evolution

Dr. Helen Pass is a breast surgeon who only operates on patients with cancer, which she says works to their advantage.

“You don’t need multi-million dollar machines, you just need the right people who care,” said the trained surgical oncologist from Lawrence Hospital Center in Bronxville.

Pass has worked solely with breast cancer patients for the past 17 years. In that time, she said she has been able to watch the field evolve.

Years ago for example, surgeons performing “radical” mastectomies oftentimes had to remove the woman’s entire breast to remove the cancer. Now, they have learned how to keep the patient’s breast shape and skin intact while preserving the nipple.

“In this day and age, this is a cancer we have learned how to treat effectively,” Pass said. “There’s a tremendous satisfaction in that.”

Watching her patients battle the illness and go on to see their daughters' christenings and weddings is also one of Pass’ rewards of the job.

Lawrence Hospital Center has adapted to the field’s evolution. With its newly launched genetic counseling program, Pass now works closely with counselor Donna Russo to identify the services her patients need. Together, they might prescribe a high-risk patient a medication that lowers her likelihood of developing the disease or encourage her to modify her lifestyle by way of nutrition.

When Pass conducts an initial consultation with a patient before surgery, she has the patient navigator Kate Gutekunst sit in on the meeting to help educate the patient and offer extra support.

“Women with breast cancer now go to on to survive. Nowadays, you can’t just cure cancer and not look at the whole of the person,” Pass said.

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