Special Expertise: Breast Surgery, Breast Cancer
Hospital: HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus; HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus
While still in medical school, Zoe Weinstein, MD, decided to research breast tumors in mice to better understand how to treat breast cancer in women. Through diagnosis and treatment — biopsies, mastectomies, and therapies — she now restores health to patients and their families, seeing her impact even while running errands instead of tests. “Because we live and work in a small community, we see our patients out and about every day,” she says. “When a patient does well after cancer treatment, so does her family. It is a joy to see all of them thrive.”
What attracted you to breast surgery?
Even as a medical student I was interested in breast pathology: the cellular changes associated with cancer development, and the biological features of breast cancer. Today, the more we understand, the better we are able to modify our surgical and medical approaches to breast cancer treatment.
What are the latest diagnostic techniques for breast cancer?
Recent use of breast tomosynthesis, a series of x-rays that a computer changes into a 3-D representation of the breast, may help in the evaluation of dense breast tissue. In everyday practice, digital mammography — combined with breast ultrasound — continue to be more reliable in evaluating dense breast tissue. Breast MRI continues to be an outstanding tool for patients with high-risk status.
Can you share a success story?
More than five years ago we had a 37-year-old woman, with four children under the age of 10, present with breast cancer that had already traveled to the lymph nodes under her arm. The patient’s sister had also had premenopausal breast cancer; and through blood testing we confirmed that our patient had a genetic mutation associated with an increase in breast and ovarian cancer incidence. The patient was a candidate for chemotherapy before surgery. She received six months of treatment, and by the time she underwent mastectomy there was no cancer left in the breast or lymph nodes. The patient had both breasts reconstructed and continues to do well today.
What is the biggest challenge in your field?
As we struggle as a society after the recession, we still see limited access or barriers to healthcare that impact breast cancer screening. Patients without health insurance or with large deductibles may not get their yearly mammogram or breast exam. Cancer patients with sub-optimal coverage or financial constraints may struggle through treatment because of high co-payments. Healthcare providers have to navigate a changing landscape to ensure that patients receive the full complement of care. Fortunately, through programs like the Gruner Fund in Kingston and Miles of Hope in Poughkeepsie, patients are able to get financial support after a breast cancer diagnosis.