A multi-disciplinary educational workshop for medical professionals keen to get updated on the latest developments in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancers, was hosted by the Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence in Johannesburg recently.

Prof Carol-Ann Benn

The interactive workshop was attended by some 75 medical professionals from around South Africa, including medical and radiation oncologists, radiographers, mammographers, and other medical professionals involved in the treatment of breast cancer. The event, which was titled “Innovation in Breast Cancer”, included presentations and live demonstration procedures by leading local and international breast cancer experts.

“In recent years there has been a remarkably rapid development of medicines, technologies and approaches to the treatment and diagnosis of breast cancer,” notes breast disease specialist and specialist surgeon, Professor Carol-Ann Benn, who founded the renowned Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence in association with Netcare some 18 years ago.

“These advances are enabling a highly personalised multi-disciplinary approach to breast cancer treatment for each individual person, which is critical in achieving the best possible outcome for them. The Breast Care Centre of Excellence consequently regularly hosts such educational CPD workshops with the aim of sharing and imparting information on the latest developments to those who are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of breast cancers,” adds Professor Benn.

“With the foremost local and international breast cancer experts presenting on subjects from intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), to innovations in radiology diagnosis, this year’s workshop was tremendously successful, and we would like to thank all of those who presented and participated.”

Speakers at the event included Dr Dennis Holmes, a breast cancer surgeon and the interim director of both the Margie Peterson Breast Cancer Center at Providence St John’s Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Center in California. Dr Holmes provided his insights on the use of cryosurgery for breast cancer treatment, as well as on the use of IORT, a cutting edge technology used to deliver low-energy, highly concentrated radiation in theatre to selected patients directly after they have undergone a lumpectomy.

According to Professor Benn, three procedures were successfully performed for demonstration purposes during the workshop, including two lumpectomies – a minimally invasive, breast-conserving surgical procedure to remove cancerous lumps – followed by IORT, as well as a vacuum biopsy procedure. “The medical professionals were provided with the opportunity to participate and exchange ideas in highly fruitful interactive discussions during these procedures which were broadcast live to the medical professionals,” she notes.

Other well-known local breast cancer experts who presented at the event included radiologist, Dr Peter Schoub, who spoke on the latest developments in radiology diagnosis; oncologist, Professor Bernardo Rapoport, whose talk was titled “Targeted therapies in oncology”; and surgeon, Dr Lucienne van Schalkwyk, who explored markers to aid surgery in breast cancer.

Oncologist, Dr Devan Moodley shared information on the importance of following a personalised approach to oncology, while another oncologist, Dr Ronwyn Van Eeden, spoke on “Challenging landscapes in endocrine therapy’. Professor Benn herself presented on “Changing information in sentinel lymph node biopsies”.

Clinical and radiation oncologist, Dr Yastira Ramdas, who runs the recently introduced IORT programme at the Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence, agreed that the workshop had been “highly informative and most productive for all involved”. At the event, Dr Ramdas spoke on innovations in radiotherapy, which included an exploration of IORT.

“It was particularly pleasing for me personally that we could, with the assistance of Dr Holmes, do a live demonstration of IORT treatment, which was first introduced to South Africa at Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence last year.

“In this way we were able to improve awareness of this invaluable new additional treatment option. IORT is a highly targeted radiation treatment that is enabling us to further customise individual treatment programmes to meet the particular requirements for each breast cancer patient.”