Two St. Luke’s University Health Network surgeons teamed up to perform the first combined mastectomy and breast implant procedure at St. Luke’s Carbon Campus.
While the combined surgery is done at larger hospitals, surgeons Ali Butash, a general surgeon and surgical oncologist, and Christopher Sanders, a plastic surgeon brought the procedure to Carbon County for the first time, SLUHN said.
Sanders joined St. Luke’s earlier this year, making it possible for the patient, who opted for this combined procedure, to have it performed close to her home in February. Previously, patients would have had to travel to St. Luke’s Bethlehem Campus or another location for this procedure.
Carbon Campus COO Joseph Pinto said that it means a great deal to him personally as well as professionally that the combined procedure can be performed in Carbon County. “Many years ago, my wife, a breast cancer survivor, had to travel to our Anderson Campus to have a very similar procedure,” he said. “Knowing what that was like, traveling back and forth for her care, it’s really special to me that we are able to keep care close to home. It is something truly special that we can now offer this to patients in the Carbon County area.”
“I hate it when people have to travel outside their comfort zone, and I am thrilled that we are now able to provide these services for them here,” Sanders, a native of Pottsville, said. Research has shown that patients do better psychologically, and the physical outcomes are often better too when patients can receive the care they need in their own backyard, he said.
Butash said that not every breast cancer patient is a candidate for this combined procedure, which involved implanting tissue expanders at the time of the mastectomy.
“Dr. Sanders was great to work with, and I am looking forward to combining cases and giving patients more access to breast reconstruction options in their own community,” Butash said.
The patient required an axillary sentinel lymph node biopsy during the mastectomy procedure, which is standard. Sentinel lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells are most likely to spread from a primary tumor, she said.
The nuclear tracer required for this procedure was injected by Butash in the operating room once the patient was asleep, rather than in the nuclear medicine department prior to the procedure — another first, she said. Before now, patients in this region had been receiving the nuclear tracer injection while awake, which is known to be quite uncomfortable.
“With this patient, we were able to do the injection while she was under anesthesia for her surgery,” Butash said. “Doing it this way is much better for the patient and simpler. It results in less pain and less anxiety for the patient and does not require a separate appointment in nuclear medicine,” she said.
Sanders anticipates working with other surgeons at the Carbon Campus to perform combined procedures such as hernia repair, reconstructive surgeries for other cancers, particularly head and neck, and for bariatric patients who need skin surgeries because of their extensive weight loss.
“Working with Dr. Butash was a great experience and working in tandem with other surgeons for more complex cases is one of the most rewarding things in plastic surgery,” Sanders said. “I feel it’s a great comfort to patients to know they have an entire team working tirelessly for them to provide them the best care possible.”