No longer a death sentence
CarePoint Breast Center brings new hope to serious problem
by By Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Mar 05, 2014 | 2154 views | 0 0 comments | 89 89 recommendations | email to a friend | print

SAVING LIVES – Dr. Robbi Kemper, medical director of CarePoint’s Breast Center, said breast cancer should not be a death sentence.
SAVING LIVES – Dr. Robbi Kemper, medical director of CarePoint’s Breast Center, said breast cancer should not be a death sentence.
“No one should have to die of breast cancer,” said Dr. Robbi Kemper, medical director for CarePoint Breast Center. The center at Christ Hospital in Jersey City is now performing new procedures that have not been available before in Hudson County.

Unlike only a decade ago, breast cancer detected through regular screening is curable, Kemper said.

To this end, the Breast Center – which has satellite centers in Bayonne Medical Center and Hoboken University Center – provides all the resources needed to combat what has previously been considered a fatal disease.

The CarePoint Breast Center provides all the services that are normally associated with breast cancer detection and treatment, as well as state of the art procedures that women would have to go elsewhere to get if they wanted.

The center’s mammography, breast ultrasound, and breast MRI scans are the first steps in the early detection process.

By having the resources in one place, a patient whose mammogram indicates reason for concern has experts on hand at that moment to begin evaluating the problem and propose solutions.

A patient going to any one of the three hospitals in the CarePoint network is assigned a nurse navigator who helps guide the person through what is needed, Kemper said.

In the event of a problematic mammogram, a patient whose history suggests a high risk of cancer, or who presents symptoms such as a breast lump, changes in the skin, or nipple discharge, the center will do necessary tests to make certain.

Kemper and the team work with the patient to develop a plan that is particularly suited to that person’s needs and wishes, and they explore the various options available, Kemper said.

Reconstruction recommended when possible

The Breast Center works with a plastic surgeon to create a reconstructive surgical plan that fits what the patient desires. The use of a plastic surgeon as part of the process often means less total reconstruction as in the past. This is a very new concept nationally, and something totally new to Hudson County.

Kemper said reconstruction of the breast has a psychological effect that helps with the healing and the life after cancer.

“We treat patients in a way that will help their quality of life after the surgery when they live their lives,” she said.

National statistics show that breast cancer strikes one out of eight American women at some time in their lives.

The Breast Center has several reconstruction teams that work with the patient to talk about options and what can and should be done based on personal conditions.

“We recommend reconstruction because it helps with a woman’s body image and she feels better about herself,” Kemper said.

One state of the art implant surgery transfers tissue from another part of a woman’s body, usually from the abdominal area, using fatty tissues and blood vessels that are relocated to the chest area.

“This gives the reconstructed breast a newer natural look and feel,” Kemper said.

New technology

One of the new technologies, which removes the cancerous tissue but leaves the external envelope so when rebuilt the patient has the same skin and nipple as before, is particularly useful for early stage cancer.

The fine needle biopsy, ultrasound guided core biopsy, lymph node surgery, breast biopsy, lumpectomy (partial mastectomy), Traditional Mastectomy, Oncoplastic Reduction, Skin Sparing Mastectomy, Nipple Sparing Mastectomy and other techniques are part of a new comprehensive program for treating breast cancer.

“CarePoint recruited me to come work in Hudson County and run the Breast Center and its services,” Kemper said.

While the center brings many of the conventional treatments into one comprehensive center, it also provides services that are seen as cutting edge.

“We are doing a number of new surgical procedures,” she said. “But we provide a full range of services for women with breast problems.”

These could be benign breast issues – meaning non-cancerous – or those cancerous conditions previously seen as life threatening.

While the center itself is located at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, satellite offices in Hoboken University Medical Center and Bayonne Medical Center allow a patient to access the program from various parts of Hudson County. With all the services associated with breast treatment under one room from imaging and diagnosis to surgery and reconstruction, a patient spends less time going from place to place and gets more focused attention.

Reducing stress

While the need for such services is everywhere, Kemper said, the particular patient population in Hudson County needs this service, which until now hasn’t been available here.

“A woman needs to see a lot of doctors and has to have a lot of tests done.”

Nurse navigators in each of the hospitals help patients make appointments for doctors and tests, and steer patients toward resources they need. Also, they answer many of the questions a patient has about various procedures. Stress caused by the disease and worry is typical, and this helps reduce much of the stress associated with making appointments.

Early detection means early cure

She said breast cancer treatment has improved tremendously over the last decade.

“A woman doesn’t die, shouldn’t die,” Kemper said. “The key to survival is catching it in screening. The best way to cure it is to find it early. The earlier we find it, the more treatable is becomes.”

A team works with each patient to talk about various options.

“This is not just about medical cures,” she said. “It’s important to talk about quality of life after surgery. We expect our patients to survive a long time, and we want to provide them with the best medical treatment as well as the best quality of life later. In some cases, if we can save the breast, we do, it not, we reconstruct it.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at
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