Keeping breast cancer at bay: Doctors from China train at CentraState
From April 30 to May 5, the doctors trained under Dr. Kenneth R. Tomkovich, medical director of breast imaging and interventional radiology at CentraState Medical Center, Freehold Township. Tomkovich is affiliated with the Freehold Radiology Group.
This is the first time the physicians trained in the United States for such a comprehensive program on breast cancer diagnosis with a vision to further develop a standardized breast imaging program in China.
Tomkovich has a distinguished international reputation in the field of breast cancer diagnosis. His work came to the attention of the medical community in China through his publications on breast imaging and interventions.
He wrote the chapter “Forward Perspective: Interventional Radiology to the Breast” for “Interventional Radiology in Women’s Health,” a textbook used worldwide.
Apress conference was held at the medical center’s Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus on May 1 to introduce the group of doctors led by Dr. Gao-Jun Teng, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Medical School of Southeast University in Nanjing and professor of radiology and chair of the Department of Radiology, Zhong-Da Hospital of Southeast University.
Teng is also vice president and incoming president of the Chinese Society of Radiology and immediate past president of the Chinese Society of Interventional Radiology.
John T. Gribbin, president and CEO of CentraState Healthcare System, introduced Tomkovich, stating that he was pleased to host this cultural exchange with the group of doctors who traveled halfway around the world to study the technology Tomkovich has implemented on breast cancer diagnosis.
Also attending the conference was William Setaro, chairman of the board of trustees of CentraState Healthcare System and a former superintendent of schools for the Freehold Township K-8 School District.
Setaro pointed out that CentraState, as a community hospital, is developing “survival programs” for patients with cancer to help them learn how to live with their illness. The goal of these programs is to offer services for residents at the hospital or close by, so they need not deal with the stress of traveling long distances for treatment. “Cancer doesn’t travel well,” Setaro said. “We want to do what is best for our patients.”
According to a press release from CentraState Medical Center, “Dr. Tomkovich’s published findings show a high accuracy rate of cancer diagnosis using breast imaging and interventions. In addition, these procedures enable physicians to find cancers when they are smaller and at more curable stages.”
Detecting and biopsing a cancer lesion when it is “pea-sized,” Tomkovich said, means that it is a stage 1 breast cancer that is highly treatable.
“We can’t today anywhere prevent someone from getting breast cancer,” he said. “We don’t have a magic pill, but what we can do is we can educate women” about the importance of getting a mammography and other image-guided tests.
One of the first comprehensive women’s centers offering breast medical imaging and interventional procedures was developed in China as a direct result of Dr. Tomkovich’s published work on the specialty, according to the press release.
In 2010, Tomkovich was invited to speak in China at the Medical School of Southeast University and at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat- Sen University in Guangzhou.
He also gave a lecture on breast imaging and interventions as the invited guest speaker at the Chinese Society of Interventional Radiology in Guangzhou. In addition, Tomkovich was an invited guest speaker at the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE) annual congress in Munich, Germany, this past fall on the topic of breast cancer and breast interventions.
Tomkovich said he was honored to have Teng and his group of physicians participate in the program. Teng returned the compliment and said it was “an honor and pleasure for us to be here and to participate in this unique training opportunity with Dr. Tomkovich.”
“Using an interdisciplinary approach to patient care along with the latest imaging and interventional techniques, we are able to detect breast cancer at earlier and more curable stages,” Tomkovich explained. “Studies show we can do this with a nearly 99 percent accuracy rate. This program is an incredible opportunity to bring such comprehensive breast cancer diagnosing techniques to other areas of the world, which can ultimately save more lives.”
Said Teng: “We are faced with an increase of breast cancer in China, and learning and using these techniques will have far-reaching benefits to the health of our population. We hope to develop programs in China similar to the program here to help other physicians learn how to diagnose and treat this disease.” Breast cancer is the No. 1 killer of women in China, according to Teng, with more cases being diagnosed in urban areas than in more rural areas. He could not explain the increased incidence but said lifestyle and possibly environmental factors may affect the number of cases diagnosed.
Tomkovich said that the visiting doctors are very skilled and have the desire to learn and implement the new technology in China. He added that Teng is quite skilled in performing biopsies of the liver and kidney using imagery, but has not done so with breast biopsies. This is what the doctors learned in the program.
Tomkovich said he is looking forward to more doctors traveling here for training programs. He already has a list of 60 doctors who want to come here for the program.
Teng was quick to say he would be pleased to send more doctors to train in the program.
Tomkovich said the training included reading mammography and breast MRI and how Tomkovich makes his diagnosis using these tests.
Doctors also observed Tomkovich performing a stereotactic breast biopsy and ultrasound guided breast biopsy.
The training program at CentraState is funded by a grant through CentraState Healthcare Foundation and sponsorships by Zonare Medical Systems, Scion Medical Technologies, Hologic and the CentraState Associated Auxiliaries.
Many people volunteered their time and effort to help bring this event to fruition, including Chinese physicians on CentraState’s staff and community members who helped to plan the itinerary, provide translating services and transportation, and helped with many other components of the trip and training.
Visiting physicians were also given the opportunity to do some sightseeing and shopping. Tomkovich said the doctors asked to shop at the Freehold Raceway Mall. There were also plans for a day trip to New York City and Atlantic City.