Behind the Scenes: A first — new opportunities for breast cancer patients

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In a year like this, challenges or concerns are prevalent while good news can feel scarce.

Despite hardship, stories of compassion, dedication and hope continue to exist — in fact, it may be more important than ever to share them.

In a recent column, I explained exceptional care is the north star guiding our hospital’s approach, no matter the circumstance. This month, I’m proud to tell a story that brings this mission to life, providing local patients with new opportunities for exceptional care, right here at home.

While it may feel like COVID-19 has taken over all aspects of health care, this perception is far from true. In fact, while our hospital treats patients with COVID-19, much of our effort is to effectively manage the virus so important work across all departments can continue.

Medical intervention for local cancer patients is one area of essential care we provide at CCH, from diagnostic imaging, to surgical procedures, and chemotherapy. For many years, our surgical team has performed mastectomies for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.


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I’m proud to announce CCH is now offering breast reconstruction surgery to patients under our care.

Thanks to expertise brought to CCH by Dr. Sahar Shirazi, our first two breast reconstruction surgeries were recently completed, with another two surgeries expected by spring. Shirazi is a general surgeon who achieved her fellowship in breast oncology surgery from the University of Ottawa’s School of Medicine.

Though she performs many other procedures at CCH, Shirazi’s unique skillset includes the newest surgical techniques for reconstruction surgery.

Exceptional care considers all aspects of a patient’s journey. Working with our surgical team, breast cancer patients now have more choice when it comes to the procedures they can access close to home. According to Shirazi, choice plays an essential role in providing compassionate care for patients dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.

“My own mother is a survivor of stage-three breast cancer, and her experience has inspired my life’s work,” he said. “While every woman is different, many consider their breasts to be part of their femininity, and some patients struggle with the psychological impact that comes with losing one or both breasts to cancer.”

“Now we can offer a new type of support for local women — our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends — if reconstruction is an opportunity they would like to pursue. I am proud to provide the same quality of care normally found at centres of excellence like Ottawa, to patients here at CCH.”


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Shirazi is quick to recognize the many individuals at CCH who have worked hard to make our new offering a success.

“The surgical team is amazing,” she said. “From our surgeons to anesthesiologists, our nurses and management, there’s a shared philosophy of wanting the best for our patients,” she said.

Kelly Vincent is a proud mother of three, a third-year nursing student taking St. Lawrence College’s program through Laurentian University, and the first patient to benefit from Shirazi’s reconstruction surgery skills at CCH. A grateful patient, Kelly recently shared her experience with our hospital foundation in hopes of benefiting other local women seeking surgical help for their cancer diagnoses.

“Learning I had breast cancer was terrifying,” she said. “I kept thinking about my children and what my diagnosis would mean for them. As a nursing student, I understand medical jargon, but my husband doesn’t. Dr. Shirazi explained everything in laymen’s terms, was patient with all our questions, and supportive as we decided which surgery to pursue. She made the whole process less scary.”

After careful consideration, discussions with her medical team, and some personal research, Kelly decided to pursue a mastectomy and implant in her breast where the tumour was found.

“I was so afraid of the outcome of this diagnosis and what surgery would mean” she said. “But I felt respected for who I am as a person as well as a patient. We have great doctors and nurses at CCH. They wanted to make me feel whole.”

Eight weeks post-surgery, Kelly reported she is healing amazingly well. Though some treatment still lies ahead, she is pleased with her reconstruction, and grateful for the exceptional care she received, right here at home.

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