October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we caught up with Dr. Nadine Norman, a breast surgeon at SHN. Working primarily out of the newly refreshed and renovated CIBC Breast Clinic at our General hospital, Dr. Norman shares with us the importance of breast health and awareness and how generous donors have made our updated CIBC Breast Clinic come to life.

1. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What advice would you give to women in Scarborough when it comes to awareness and breast health?

Two pieces of advice that I would give to all Scarborough women is to first, keep up with your routine screening with mammography as recommended. For most women of average risk, this means mammography once every two years, or if you have a personal history or other risk factors, once per year.

Second, get to know what your normal breasts feel like to you. A lot of new cancer patients we see feel or see a change that was new and persistent. Ignoring a change that could be cancer can lead to a delayed diagnosis and the requirement for more extensive treatments.

An extra piece of advice: do not be afraid to tell your family doctor about a change in your breast. It may be nothing or just a cyst, but if it is cancer, know that we are winning the battle against this disease. We are able to cure upwards of 86% of all breast cancers, so the sooner you get diagnosed and treated the better the outcome.

2. What sets SHN apart from other hospitals in regards to the CIBC Breast Clinic?

At the General hospital CIBC Breast Clinic, we are a family. We work together as a team to make sure all patients are treated with kindness, respect, and expedient, high-quality care. Coming together in one clinic, we have mammography and ultrasound technologists, radiologists, clerical staff, and three breast surgeons who are in the clinic four out of five days every week. Our team also includes our very knowledgeable and accessible medical oncologists with whom we interact regularly to ensure continuity of care. The entire medical group meets regularly to discuss challenging breast cancer cases and make treatment plans.

When a patient presents to our clinic with a new suspicious mass in the breast, the clerical staff and technologists know that one of the breast surgeons will likely be able to do a biopsy that same day in the clinic, thus they are streamed to see us right away and on some occasions, a patient can have all necessary tests done all in one visit. This means they can have their diagnosis explained to them and their families within three or four days. We are a small but mighty team, which allows us to spend extra time with our patients to get to know them on a personal level to speak to their specific concerns, educate and comfort them, and together formulate an initial treatment plan.

3. What do you think makes the Scarborough community so special?

Our Scarborough population is so diverse with respect to ethnicity and medical knowledge.

We need the extra time we are thankfully able to give to our patients in order to translate into their language and make sure they understand their diagnosis, treatment options and plan. A lot of our patients who are new to our country are terrified of cancer and surgery due to misinformation and “stories” from back home. It sometimes takes a lot of time to reassure them and make sure they will follow the recommended plan.

4. The CIBC Breast Clinic refresh was made possible through the support of our incredible donors. How important is it that we have donor and community support for health care in Scarborough?

The Scarborough community, unfortunately, does not receive large donations for improvements and equipment like other hospitals in Toronto. However, we know our community supports us in our vision and our work, and that they appreciate all we do because they tell us every day. When we received an extremely generous donation from a former patient, everyone agreed that the gift would be best used to make our aged clinic space more pleasant, relaxing and functional. Our reception area, waiting room, hallway and physician room received a refresh with new floors, chairs and wall treatments with a nature theme as well as some new, modern equipment. So far, the feedback from staff and patients has been very positive, with everyone loving our new look!

5. SHN’s vision is “shaping the future of care”. How do you think the opening of the refreshed CIBC Breast Clinic helps move us to that vision?

The care of breast cancer is multidisciplinary and personalized. It is a total team effort from the time a patient presents with an abnormality in their breast right through to their follow-up care in the months and years that follow. Each step of breast imaging, biopsy, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and follow-ups involve intricate networks of dedicated people who, as a necessity, work together all to deliver high-quality care with empathy and in a timely fashion. That is the present and the future of care of our Scarborough breast cancer population.

We are incredibly grateful to our dedicated donors who made the CIBC Breast Clinic refresh possible. Thank you to Mr. Christopher and Mrs. Estela Provost, Dr. Dhun and Mr. Farokh Noria, and CIBC for empowering SHN to transform patient care for those with breast cancer.

To learn more about breast health at SHN, visit SHN.ca/diagnostic-imaging/breast-health.