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Posted: October 4, 2009 12:01 a.m.

What women should know about breast cancer detection

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

 The words "breast cancer" evoke terror in the minds of most women and especially in the minds of the people who love them. Because breast cancer is today’s second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States behind lung cancer, modern medicine continues to discover and provide ways to prevent, detect and treat this dreaded disease.

 Dr. Steven Whitworth, a general surgeon specializing in breast surgery, said The Women’s Diagnostic Center at Newton Medical Center offers the highest level of certainty in the diagnosis of breast problems; the doctors have the training and experience that patients want. According to Whitworth more than 95 percent of breast biopsies performed in the center are closed, or minimally invasive, procedures. Both stereotactic and core biopsies are performed on an outpatient basis and offer many advantages to the open surgical procedure performed in the operating room.

Closed Biopsy versus Open Surgical Biopsy

 • Closed biopsy results in less chance of complications

 • Closed biopsy results in reduced scarring and trauma for the patient

 • Closed biopsy avoids unnecessary cost to our already overburdened health care delivery system

 "A major benefit of closed biopsy is the establishment of a definitive benign (not cancer) diagnosis for a majority of image-identified abnormalities," said Whitworth, who performs around 70 percent of the center’s closed procedures.

 "For those with a diagnosis of a malignant breast tumor — cancer — a closed biopsy allows us the opportunity to obtain consultations with the appropriate specialists and plan for the surgical removal of the tumor and sentinel lymph nodes. This results in a greater likelihood of success on the first surgical attempt and the avoidance of returning to the operating room for another tumor excision."

 Whitworth received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Medical College of Georgia and his graduate medical education in general surgery from Memorial Medical Center in Savannah. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Surgery.

 He has been a member of the medical staff at Newton Medical Center since 1985 and is currently serving as chief of staff.

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