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Harris expands service to offer comprehensive breast cancer care

In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Women are not alone in the fight against breast cancer. About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020 and a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883. A women’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8. 

In North Carolina, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women with an average of over 6,000 NC women diagnosed annually and over 1,000 who will die from the disease. 

In conjunction with October serving as  National Breast Cancer Awareness month, Harris Regional Hospital is working to educate residents across Western North Carolina about recent expansions that allow individuals diagnosed with breast cancer to receive comprehensive, high-quality care close to home. 

Harris Regional Hospital’s goal of developing a comprehensive care program for breast cancer patients started in June when Dr. Allison Palumbo joined the healthcare system as a general surgeon with Harris Surgical Associates. 

Dr. Palumbo joined Joshua Pratt, DO and Eric Reitz, MD in providing general surgery services to Jackson, Swain, Graham, and Macon counties as well as the surrounding region. While Dr. Palumbo is an experienced general surgeon, she specialized in breast surgical oncology, including breast cancer genetics and high-risk breast cancer screening.  

“I am excited to be joining the team at Harris Surgical Associates and am proud to be part of a program that has the same leading technology and expertise that some of the largest healthcare facilities in the country.”

Dr. Palumbo brings her extensive training in lumpectomy as well as skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomy techniques to the patients of Western North Carolina. She graduated from Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, W. Va., and completed a general surgery residency at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Palumbo served in the United States Air Force as a general surgeon at MacDill Air Force Base. Dr. Palumbo was deployed to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan where she served as chief of general surgery for the country’s largest hospital. Dr. Palumbo received multiple awards for her military service, including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the NATO Medal. In addition to serving in the USAF, Dr. Palumbo received extensive training in breast surgical oncology during her time in Tampa, FL, and practiced at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

“Dr. Palumbo brings specialized training in advanced breast surgical oncology that aligns with Harris Regional Hospital’s investments in 3-D mammography and our renovation and addition at the Harris Regional Cancer Center. Dr. Palumbo will be a great complement to the general surgery team, joining Dr. Pratt and Dr. Reitz,” said Steve Heatherly, CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital. 

According to Dr. Palumbo, the state-of-the-art technology and equipment she utilized during her tenure working in Tampa, Florida was some of the most advanced in the industry — and she was pleased to learn that Harris Regional Hospital has invested in the same equipment. 

The advanced technology Dr.Palumbo referred to is a 3D Mammography System. The system captures images of the breast from multiple angles to ensure a more complete and accurate scan. This allows for earlier and more effective detection of breast cancer and helps reduce the number of return visits caused by false positives. 

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this state-of-the-art technology and further enhance the high-quality care we provide to the women in our community,” says LaCrystal Gordon, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Harris Regional Hospital. “Our 3D mammography service will help make it possible to detect breast cancer in earlier stages so that treatment can begin sooner, giving our patients a greater chance of beating the disease.” 

A 3D mammogram, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) or “tomo,” is a type of digital mammography that follows the same basic procedure of standard 2D digital mammography. This advanced procedure requires no additional breast compression and lasts just a few seconds longer than standard 2D digital mammography. 

“Dr. Palumbo brings specialized training in advanced breast surgical oncology that aligns with Harris Regional Hospital’s investments in 3-D mammography and our renovation and addition at the Harris Regional Cancer Center. Dr. Palumbo will be a great complement to the general surgery team, joining Dr. Pratt” said Steve Heatherly, CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital.

Between the 3D mammogram capability and Dr. Palumbo’s expertise, Harris Regional Hospital will be able to diagnose, detect, and treat breast cancer in patients from beginning to end. 

“When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is understandably a scary experience,” said Dr. Palumbo. “Being able to treat patients wholly from beginning to end allows patients to stay close to home and close to their support networks of family and friends. Having that support can make all the difference during treatment.

Dr. Palumbo noted that beyond diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, Harris Regional Hospital has also recently added a skilled plastic surgeon that helps with recovery. 

“We have regular meetings where we are able to discuss treatment plans and progress of patients,” said Dr. Palumbo. “Because all doctors are working in the same facility, the communication and group approach to treatment for patients is quick and effective.”

Standard 2D digital and 3D mammograms can be scheduled at Harris Regional Hospital by calling 844.414.DOCS. For more information on breast care services available at Harris Regional Hospital, visit MyHarrisRegional.com

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