Ashley Hendrix, MD, MBA, FACS is a board-certified, fellowship-trained breast surgeon at Regional One Health’s Main Campus and East Campus.
As a specialist in breast cancer surgery, she understands how to help patients identify the best procedure for their diagnosis and their personal needs and goals.
Dr. Hendrix urges women to be vigilant about mammograms and breast cancer awareness, since catching the disease early gives them more surgical treatment options.
Most patients with breast cancer have surgery as part of their treatment.
In recent years, procedures have become less invasive, and outcomes are improving. But that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful for patients!
A breast surgeon is often the first doctor a patient sees after their diagnosis. “My focus is not only to perform a successful procedure, but to educate and encourage shared decision-making to identify right procedure for each patient,” said Ashley Hendrix, MD, MBA, FACS, a surgical oncologist at Regional One Health Cancer Care who specializes in treating breast cancer.
There are two main types of breast cancer surgery.
A mastectomy is removal of the entire breast. Breast conservation therapy, also called a partial mastectomy or lumpectomy, removes just the cancerous tissue with a normal rim of tissue around to remove all microscopic disease, preserving as much breast as possible.
Patients with advanced breast cancer may only be a candidate for total mastectomy, whereas early-stage disease may have all options.
Dr. Hendrix said the first important factor to tailoring decisions is the size of the tumor, specifically the amount of disease relative to your breast size.
She also considers the biology of the patient’s disease and the need for systemic therapy in addition to surgery. The need for chemotherapy also contributes to options for surgery.
“We assess your genetic risk via a detailed family history and all indicated genetic testing. Genetic mutations may change recommendations for both treating your current cancer as well as preventing future cancers,” Dr. Hendrix said.
“The last factor – and most important – is your personal preferences. I believe in shared decision-making for patients who have a choice between mastectomy and breast conservation therapy. I explain to them that both are highly effective, and then we discuss risks and benefits considering life factors that allow for emotional recovery from cancer.”
With breast conservation, the patient keep as much of their breast as possible, with almost all patients going home the same day.
Full recovery takes about two weeks, but patients usually return to work and normal activities after a couple days if they aren’t extremely strenuous. This surgery is paired with radiation in most patients to ensure the lowest chance of recurrence.
In mastectomy, the breast is removed, and patients face a longer recovery.
Many patients go home the same day due to advanced pain management strategies with drains that are removed once patients no longer need them. They should avoid vigorous activity until they make a full recovery in four to six weeks.
Reconstruction is always an option, but the timing is dependent on patient factors: some patients are candidates immediately while others must be delayed due to other medical conditions.
Dr. Hendrix’s advice to patients is simple.
“Start by being vigilant. Get your annual mammogram. If something changes in your breasts, talk to your provider. By catching cancer early, you give yourself more options for treatment,” she said.
“If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, seek treatment from a surgeon who specializes in the disease. We can offer the latest procedures, including minimally invasive options. Finally, know that you have choices. Talk to your surgeon about what is best for your specific needs and goals. Remember, we’re here not only to make sure your procedure goes well, we’re here to make sure it’s the right procedure for you.”
For appointments, call 901-515-HOPE (4673). For more information, visit regionalonehealth.org/cancer-care/