A Culture of Award-Winning Care: Einstein's Breast Health Program

Posted by Perspectives Blog Team on Sep 21, 2015 3:44:00 PM

Over a lifetime, many women will face concerns about breast health—pain, lumps, nipple discharge, or changes in skin or breast size or shape. Since 1981, the Einstein Breast Health Program has been at the forefront of addressing these concerns.

“We started the conversation more than 30 years ago to learn what women wanted with regard to breast health and the treatment of breast cancer,” says Einstein’s Robert G. Somers, MD, FACS, a pioneer of breast conservation and under whose leadership the program was established.

Today, the Einstein Breast Health Program serves thousands of women annually, providing risk assessment, prevention and screening care, disease diagnosis, treatment and recovery. 

“Einstein has always had a strong presence in the field of breast imaging,” says Debra Somers Copit, MD, FACR, director of Breast Imaging at Einstein Healthcare Network since 1995. “In the 1950s, we were one of only a few institutions in the country to offer mammograms. Back then, the dose of x-ray was too high, and my predecessor, Dr. Isard, worked with physicians at DuPont to develop low-dose mammography. He was deeply involved in bringing mammography into the national and global consciousness.”

When digital mammography became available, Einstein was the first in the Philadelphia region to offer this new generation of screening at every one of our sites in 2006.

The advent of digital technology then opened the door to the development of digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) – three-dimensional mammography that shows greater detail and represents the most advanced breast cancer screening available today. Dr. Copit played an integral role in bringing DBT to market.

“I knew DBT had extraordinary potential, and asked the manufacturing company for a tomosynthesis unit to conduct research,” says Dr. Copit. “We began with our own research at Einstein in 2009, and based on our work, became one of only 13 institutions nationwide invited to participate in a major multi-institutional trial consisting of 500,000 women.” Dr. Copit served as a principal investigator in that trial, and was instrumental in DBT receiving full approval from the FDA in 2011.

She was recognized for her trailblazing efforts by the Philadelphia Business Journal and United Healthcare, which named her Educator/Researcher of the Year in 2014. Dr. Copit remains deeply involved in her research in addition to working directly with patients on a day-to-day basis.

Today, Einstein is one of only two institutions in the region with DBT at all of our sites, providing state-of-the-art imaging for every patient we see.

At the Forefront of Treatment

In addition to leading the way in imaging, Einstein has always offered the most advanced treatment options for women diagnosed with breast cancer. We were among the first to create a multidisciplinary tumor board composed of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and nurse navigators, who meet weekly to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient.

These highly experienced practitioners utilize the latest techniques, including skin-sparing mastectomy—where skilled surgeons perform immediate reconstruction of the breast at the time of mastectomy surgery, using a patient’s own skin to create a more natural-looking breast, and oncoplastic surgery—a comprehensive approach that combines surgical oncology with plastic and reconstructive surgery, allowing surgeons to improve breast size and shape while a patient is being treated for cancer.

We have always been vanguards in adopting the latest methods of treatment,” says Lisa Jablon, MD, FACS, director of the Breast Health Program at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia.

“In the 1990s, we were among the first to perform sentinel node biopsies, which determine if cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into the lymphatic system,” explains Dr. Jablon. “Also in the 90s, we introduced genetic screening very early on, testing women when the BRCA genes were just being identified. Since then, we’ve offered one of the most comprehensive genetic evaluation programs in the region, with a full-time breast cancer geneticist on staff.”

As a major cancer center, Einstein is able to provide patients with the most cutting edge treatment options through our ongoing participation in the latest clinical trials. “And because we are so much more than a cancer center,” adds Dr. Jablon, “we can address any other health concerns that might occur as a result of treatment.

In addition, through our strong association with MossRehab—Einstein’s physical and cognitive rehabilitation arm—we can treat any potential side effects, such as limited range of motion or lymphedema.”

Delivering Patient-Centered Care

“While our team is highly knowledgeable, we are also very compassionate and approachable,” says Dr. Jablon. “Our goal is to lessen the fear and anxiety, and provide the best possible experience for women on their road to wellness. We want our patients to feel that we’ve gone above and beyond to help them through a difficult time.”

Einstein first launched our Women in Need program in 1997, offering breast diagnostic services to those who could not otherwise afford it. We also have an extensive survivorship program, developing a customized support and surveillance plan for every patient who has undergone treatment for breast cancer.

The Einstein Breast Health Program has received national recognition as an Accredited Breast Center by the American College of Surgeons, accreditation by the American College of Radiology and certification by the Mammography Quality Standards Act. We’re especially proud to have been honored with the 2014 Women’s Choice Award as one of America’s Best Breast Centers.

As the program continues to evolve, Dr. Somers remains mindful of taking those first early steps in providing treatment options that give women a better quality of life. “I did my first lumpectomy when our program was brand new, at a time when there was no such thing as a breast surgeon,” he recalls. Just a few months ago, he ran into that patient.

“We were at a social function and she introduced me to her grandson,” says Dr. Somers. “It’s moments like those that help me realize we made a good decision in trying something new more than 30 years ago. And why we will always remain committed to identifying and providing state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment, and delivering the best care possible to our patients.”

To make an appointment with an Einstein breast health specialist or to schedule a screening, call 1-800-EINSTEIN.

Topics: Breast Cancer

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About this blog

Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness.

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