Dr. Timothy Pluard is a medical oncologist/hematologist and medical director of Saint Luke's Cancer Institute.

Dr. Timothy Pluard is a medical oncologist/hematologist and medical director of Saint Luke's Cancer Institute.

1. Are there any new advances in the treatment of breast cancer that make you optimistic that this is becoming a more beatable disease?
We know that survival rates are improving, a result of earlier detection from screening along with improvements in treatment. Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital offers the area's only digital mammography, and Saint Luke's now offers 3-D mammography at its hospitals in Kansas City North, the Plaza, Overland Park and Lee's Summit. We know there are different types of breast cancer and we are studying how to best tailor and individualize our treatments depending on cancer and patient characteristics.

2. Since the diagnosis of breast cancer causes fear and stress for most women, what advice would you give a woman (or man) for finding specialists and a treatment center that specifically provides what the patient needs?
The treatment of breast cancer requires a team of physicians including surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. Patients who access oncology services through Saint Luke's Cushing Hospital can have many of their office visits and treatments right here in Leavenworth — while also having access to the full range of services available at Saint Luke's Cancer Institute on the main Saint Luke's campus. We utilize a team approach with physicians who specialize in breast cancer, evaluating the patient together to determine the optimal treatment plan. We recognize the stress a diagnosis of breast cancer creates and we try to see patients within 24-48 hours.

3. When you are helping to treat breast cancer patients, what do you find that they need the most to maintain strength and optimism during the process?
They need trust in their treatment team and compassionate, excellent care that creates the sense that the team is fighting right alongside with the patient. Information is also powerful — knowing about the disease and what to expect with treatment often eliminates the anxiety of the unknown.

4. As a health care professional, what are the most important things you would like women to know about the prevention of breast cancer?
First, know your family history —―your mother's and father's sides are both important. If there is a family history of breast cancer, let your doctor know. You can also be evaluated in a high-risk breast clinic to determine risk and discuss prevention options including genetic testing. Saint Luke's Cancer Institute offers a high risk breast clinic as well as genetic counseling.

5. How can health care professionals and family members of those who are diagnosed best support and enable breast cancer patients?
Support during treatment that can be physically demanding is obviously important. But breast cancer patients need support even after treatment concludes. Survivorship programs, like the STAR Program at Saint Luke's, exist to help patients and their families deal with the emotional, physical and social changes that can result from the cancer diagnosis and treatment.

— Rimsie McConiga