Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Commack: Breast Cancer Q&A with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Commack's Dr. Lisa Sclafani

Lisa M. Sclafani, MD, is a surgical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of breast cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Commack.

1. What is your reaction to the recent controversial study that questioned the usefulness of regular mammograms?

Anyone who has ever seen a patient whose cancer was found early because of a mammogram will tell you that patients should have mammograms. A lot of the statements against screening mammography are made by statisticians and are based on a cost-benefit analysis, and that doesn’t seem a fair way to advise patients. So I will still recommend annual mammograms after the age of 40, until someone proves they are not beneficial for women.

2. How important is it for women to do breast self-exams?

It’s very important, especially for younger women. It turns out that mammography is not as helpful in young women, so breast exams are a critical tool for them.

3. What are the most encouraging trends you see in breast cancer treatment?

I’m delighted to say that, compared to when I graduated from medical school 20 years ago, we are doing much less surgery. Not fewer patients, just less surgery on each patient. Most breast cancer patients now have outpatient surgery. They spend one afternoon in the hospital. They miss two days of work, then continue to work while they’re getting their treatment. In many cases, it’s become an outpatient disease.

4. What advantages does receiving treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering offer women?

One person alone cannot treat breast cancer. It’s a team effort among a pathologist, a radiologist, a medical oncologist, a radiation therapist, a surgeon, and the support staff. When you come to Memorial, you’re not just getting one person’s opinion, you’re getting the institution’s wealth of experience. That’s something you can’t get anywhere else on Long Island. Other hospitals may open up breast centers, but they’re not coordinated care centers. We have that now in Hauppauge and Commack, the models for this concept of coordinated care. We built it from scratch to meet our standards of excellence for the most advanced care available.