Unfortunately, women and men are all too familiar with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, accounting for nearly 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed. Thankfully Brevard has a new ally in the fight against breast cancer, Dr. Sharon Noori with Health First Medical Group.
Sharon F. Noori, MD, is a fellowship trained breast surgeon, specializing in benign and malignant breast disease, who recently joined the Health First Medical Group (HFMG) serving patients from the Gateway location in Melbourne. Her breast oncology fellowship focused on breast cancer surgery, including nipple-sparing mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy and oncoplastic techniques. She also holds board certification in general surgery.
Dr. Noori earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Persian Studies from Emory University in Atlanta. She then pursued a Master’s in Public Health and completed her thesis, “Human Trafficking: The New Form of Slavery,” at Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Noori earned a Medical Degree from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“I became engrossed with the realm of public health and decided to pursue my Master’s in Public Health, instead of continuing on to medical school,” Dr. Noori explained. “During my two years at Rollins, I learned many invaluable lessons about global health and preventive care. I also had the privilege to work with an organization called Tapestri, which helped refugee women who had fallen victim to domestic violence and human trafficking.”
“I have always been interested in women’s health. I had the opportunity to work with a breast surgeon as a medical student and really enjoyed the patient interactions as well as the operations,” Dr. Noori said.
“ With our advances in breast imaging, we are able to diagnose breast cancers at earlier stages,” adds Dr. Noori. “In most cases, we can offer breast conservation therapy (i.e lumpectomy) instead of a mastectomy.”
“During residency, I considered other surgical specialties, but I remained passionate about treating breast cancer patients.”
Dr. Noori has extensive research experience, including presentations and publications on topics ranging from evolution of women in surgery, innovations in the surgical treatment of breast cancer and examination of nodal metastasis in women with breast cancer who are carriers of the BRCA genetic mutations.
In 2013, she was one of the recipients of the Breast Cancer Achievement Awards from the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Symposium, held in Chicago. She is a member of the American Medical Association and the American Society of Breast Surgeons.
“I specialize in all breast disease, which includes fibrocystic changes, breast pain and even high risk surveillance,” Dr. Noori said.
Breast cancer begins in the breast tissue and can be associated with a mass. Most masses are benign, that is, they are not cancerous and are not life-threatening. There are different types of breast cancer, and every patient’s treatment is individualized based on stage and other tumor-specific markers.
“With our advances in breast imaging, we are able to diagnose breast cancers at earlier stages,” adds Dr. Noori. “In most cases, we can offer breast conservation therapy (i.e lumpectomy) instead of a mastectomy.”
Patients of Dr. Noori’s also have the benefits of a nurse navigator, Catherine Marinak, ARNP Oncology Navigator RN, who helps patients and their families successfully maneuver through the health care system.
Most navigators are specially trained oncology nurses or nurse practitioners. The navigator has three main roles: personal advocate, support and resource provider, and educator. The nurse navigator helps guide patients through all the treatment options available. She stays in constant communication with the patient’s oncologists, radiologist and surgeon throughout the treatment process.
Additionally, the navigator recommends resources and provides referrals to social workers, psychologists and support groups. She explains the advantages and disadvantages of various treatment options.
“The role of educator is a key function for navigators,” Catherine said. “Finally, the navigator acts as a public advocate by educating the public about early detection of breast cancer and the needs of breast cancer patients and their families.”
Treatment decisions are made based on the patient and the stage and biological characteristics of the cancer. Most women with breast cancer will undergo a surgical procedure that may be combined with other treatment such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy.
We often perform genetic testing on individuals prior to any definitive treatment strategies being determined, Catherine said. “We use those testing results to make recommendations with regards to surgery and chemotherapy.”
“The majority of breast cancers are slow-growing, and therefore, there should not be a rush to surgical intervention. I like to have a complete picture prior to surgical planning, which may include obtaining a breast MRI or genetic testing,” said Dr. Noori. These tests may take two to three weeks to complete. “I often reassure patients that the information obtained is worth the wait.”
Treatment of breast cancer entails a multi-disciplinary approach. As a breast surgeon, Dr. Noori is dedicated to keeping up-to-date on the evolving changes in the field of breast cancer, which not only includes surgical options, but also innovations in medical and radiation oncology. Therefore, she can help patients understand and navigate the various therapeutic options.
The latest technologies are making treatment even more efficient with less complications. With the advent of sentinel lymph node biopsy, Dr. Noori can accurately determine metastasis to axillary lymph nodes with low morbidity and complications.
“We can now offer skin and even nipple sparing mastectomies to a select group of patients which allow for beautiful reconstructive outcomes,” said Dr. Noori.
Health First Cancer Services
Health First Cancer Services has a comprehensive and collaborative approach to cancer treatment. This includes personalized medicine that uses genetic and tumor markers to determine which treatment patients may be better suited to, such as specific drugs. Health First Cancer Services’ Radiation Oncology is accredited by the American College of Radiology.
“Since I have been here, the patients continue to articulate how relieved they are that they can receive the best care that is available today and not leave home,” Catherine said.
Survivorship programs, lifelong care and comprehensive care are all under one roof.
“Given my public health background, I am a true advocate in prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer. As a surgeon, I really appreciate that breast cancer can be highly curative,” Dr. Noori said.
“Furthermore, I welcome building lasting relationships with my patients and being a part of their journey to wellness.”
Health First will soon open two state-of-the-art breast centers. The first will open in Spring 2015 at the Health First Medical Group Gateway location (Gateway Drive in Melbourne) and the second is scheduled to open later in the year at Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital (701 W. Cocoa Beach Causeway in Cocoa Beach). For more information about Health First’s Cancer Services visit Health-First.org
or call (321) 434-3131.
Know the Facts:
Signs and Symptoms
Breast cancer typically has no symptoms when the tumor is small and the most treatable. This is why it is so important for women to get yearly mammograms. These screenings can detect breast cancer before symptoms develop, especially due to the fact that when a mass or lump develops to the point it can be felt, it is usually painless. Less common symptoms include breast pain, swelling, thickening, or redness of the breast skin.
Many of the known risk factors for breast cancer, such as age, family history, early menstrual period and later menopause, are things that can’t be controlled. However, other factors that increase breast cancer risk can be corrected or changed, including postmenopausal obesity, use of estrogen and progestin, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.
Detection and Treatment
The American Cancer Society guidelines for early detection of breast cancer vary depending on a woman’s age. These include mammography and clinical breast examination as well as an MRI for women at high risk.