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NEWS | Oct. 13, 2006

Andrews surgeon devotes part of practice to prevent, treat Breast Cancer

By Margo Turner Staff Writer

A general surgeon at Malcolm Grow Medical Center is dedicating a portion of her practice toward promoting breast health and identifying and treating women and men with breast cancer. 

Approximately 40 percent of MGMC's general surgery patients are seen in consultation for breast-related issues, including self-discovered or primary care provider-discovered breast lumps, abnormal screening mammograms and breast pain, said Maj. (Dr.) Shannon C. Lehr, 79th Surgical Operations Squadron staff general surgeon. 

Major Lehr said the patients include Active Duty, retirees and their dependents, and Guardsmen and Reservists eligible for military benefits. 

"The majority of the patients will end up with a benign diagnosis, but our providers do diagnose breast cancer in several women each month," she said. 

The treatment of breast cancer involves the coordination of multiple medical providers, including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, oncology nurses and behavioral experts, said Major Lehr. 

Current guidelines for early detection of breast cancer outlined by the American Cancer Society consist of a monthly breast self-examination by all women ages 20 and older, she said. Women ages 20 to 39 should have a breast examination performed by a trained health professional every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast examination performed by a health professional every year. They should also have a screening mammogram once a year. 

Due to the screening programs, there has been more than a 30 percent reduction in breast cancer mortality according to multiple research studies, said Major Lehr.
"The goal of any established screening program is to detect breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage," she said. 

Major Lehr recently received a three-year appointment as the cancer liaison physician of the MGMC's multi-disciplinary care program, which is approved by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
The CoC completed a site visit to MGMC in August and awarded the hospital and its cancer program a "3 Year with Commendation" approval award with seven commendations, said Major Lehr. 

"This achievement was in no small part due to the hard work to prepare for the site visit on behalf of our tumor registrars, Elaine Ingle, Valerie Proctor and Linda Krause, who identify, collect and track every single patient diagnosed with cancer within our facility, as well as one of our medical oncologists, Dr. Lisa McGrail, who has since separated from the military," said Major Lehr. "Due to the successful site visit, MGMC has maintained its status as one of the 1,400 CoC-approved cancer programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. 

Major Lehr said approximately 80 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are treated at medical facilities with CoC-approved cancer programs.