In the past Hawkesbury residents needing breast cancer surgery had to go to Nepean or Westmead as our hospital didn’t have the specialist or equipment. Now if you’re diagnosed you can get it treated at Hawkesbury Hospital.
With a new gamma probe to check the first-draining lymph nodes, Dr Shadi Faraj can tell if the cancer has spread from the breast.
He said he doesn’t perform many mastectomies as he’s found the alternative, a lumpectomy (where just the bad cells are taken out) when combined with radiotherapy, has a similar survival rate. He said radiotherapy these days is so targeted most people still go to work while undergoing it.
“Prophylactic mastectomy is indicated in some cases where they have the BRCA 1 and 2 gene and if they’re young,” he said.
An innovation to make sure each breast cancer patient gets the benefit of the accumulated experience of all the carers involved is an area meeting every fortnight called the ‘breast MDT meeting’.
Every breast cancer patient from Mt Druitt, Blacktown and Hawkesbury hospitals is discussed by a team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, breast surgeons, pathologists and breast nurses so a group decision can be made on the best path forward for each patient.
He said it was about being humble and really listening to each other and benefitting from each other’s expertise. “We advise each other and make decisions together,” he said.
Barbara Reynolds of Riverstone was one patient who was grateful to be able to be treated locally when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.
“I was quite shocked when Dr Faraj said he was going do the surgery here as opposed to Norwest, because I didn’t’ think that they could do it at Hawkesbury,” Mrs Reynolds said. “It’s easy for my family as they are only five minutes away.”
Mrs Reynolds was happy to share her story with the Gazette as she had such a good experience, despite what she was going through.
She’d gone into Hawkesbury Hospital with a diverticulitis attack and was admitted to via the emergency department.
“The radiologist did a scan of my stomach, which happened to show my breasts,” she said. “The radiologist found two lumps in my breast.
“At the time I was under the care of Dr Shadi Faraj for diverticulitis, and his two registrars organised for me to have biopsies of the lumps done while I was in hospital.
“I was also diagnosed with an ovarian cyst and the registrars were trying to get me in to see gynaecologist Dr Richa Gulati.
“I went to see Dr Gulati on the Tuesday after I left hospital, and she had my biopsy results and told me that I had breast cancer.
“I saw my GP at Rouse Hill, and said ‘this is what’s happening’ and took my results. He said he would refer me to an oncologist, and I said, ‘actually I’ve got one’, and showed him Dr Faraj’s card.
“I saw Dr Faraj on the Friday morning and he went through it all with me; and told me the options I had, and what was possible. He was one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever dealt with and made me feel very comfortable, which was so important.”
She said she didn’t feel like mucking about and wanted to get the breast off but asked her husband Ray what he thought first.
“He said ‘the choice is yours but that’s what I think too’. I said, ‘yep, it’s coming off’.
“Dr Faraj booked me in for surgery two weeks after my appointment. The whole time I was in here, his registrars came in and saw me every day and he came in a couple of times to see me too.
“When the biopsy showed there was cancer in my lymph nodes he booked me in to have them taken out too. The whole journey has been just on a month now.
“I am very impressed with Dr Faraj. The two times that I’ve been into surgery with him, he’s come into the theatre and touched me and said ‘you’ll be right, we’re going to get through this and we’re going to take very good care of you,’ which was so reassuring and put my mind at ease and made me feel much more comfortable.
“After both surgeries, he’s come to speak to me to let me know that they went really well. He’s got such a lovely bedside manner.
“I must say that Dr Faraj is probably one of the best doctors I have ever met. Not only that, he organised things for me very quickly. You know that this is a traumatic thing that you have to go through, but the fact that he has organised things so quickly has been such a relief.
“After my mastectomy, Dr Faraj organised for the breast nurse to come to my home as I still had a drain in. And the breast nurse has organised for all this information to come to me from the Breast Cancer Council.
“The nursing staff at HDHS have been fantastic too. I am so appreciative for Dr Faraj’s whole team, they have saved my life.”