North Philadelphia: Fighting Cancer By Staying Up-to-Date with Technology

Dr. Lisa Jablon is the director of the Breast Health Program at Einstein Medical Center located in North Philadelphia on the cross streets of Broad and Somerville. Under Jablon’s leadership, the Breast Health Program received national recognition as an Accredited Breast Center by the American College of Surgeons. Below, Jablon discusses some of the programs and technologies she and her team have implemented in order to assist and save women diagnosed with breast cancer and other breast-related diseases.

Can you discuss your background and what first got you interested in breast surgery?

I’ve been in practice for 25 years. I think I got involved with breast surgery since I joined the senior partner who was a renowned breast surgeon in Philadelphia. I fell in love with surgery as a student and then when I got into practice. I liked the practice of treating women and following them for a number of years, being able to do the surgery but also getting to know the patients.

What sets your practice apart from other practices in the city?

Our program involves a team-oriented approach to patient care. We have a group that meets every week we talk about every new breast patient. We try to stay up to date on all the latest technology. Recently, we added something to our program that I don’t think anybody else has in the city, it’s called a margin probe. It enables you to look at tumors inter-operatively and tell you whether you’ve acquired a good edge around the tumor, which is the margin. It uses radio frequencies that puts it right on the tumor bed and sees whether the tumor is right on the edge or not. We were also one of the first centers in the city to utilize tomosynthesis, which is a three-dimensional mammography. This is a better way of reading or detecting tumors especially on people who have dense breasts. Staying up on that kind of technology has enabled our group and our practice to really be quite good in comparison to other areas in the city.

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How has breast surgery changed from the beginning of your career until now?

I think over the years we do less radical procedures. A few decades ago, more women would receive mastectomy than breast conservation. I think that has changed a lot over the years. More women get to keep their breasts. We also have evolved better reconstruction techniques. Women who can’t have a lumpectomy can at least have the option of reconstructing their breasts at the same time of the surgery.  I think the whole treatment not just with surgery much more targeted treatment nowadays. So not every person diagnosed with breast cancer gets the same treatment. It’s very specific and based on the type of tumor, the type of markers they have and the size of their tumors that determine what they get in addition to surgery.

What is your patient demographic like? 

Right at our main campus in Philadelphia, we primarily see a fairly poor socioeconomic group. It’s very integrated, predominantly African American, a number of Hispanic, Asian patients and Caucasian. It’s a very mixed population.  In our satellite areas, it varies. Philadelphia tends to be a more impoverished group of patients.


Do you perform pro-bono surgery?

Yes, we’ve had a program for the last 20 years that’s called the Woman In Need Program (WIN). It’s a program that offers free consolations, free biopsies and free imaging to anybody who has a breast problem. Once they’re diagnosed with cancer, we help them apply for emergency medical assistance and help them get through that with health insurance. We never turn anybody away.

How has Einstein’s Breast Health Program changed under your leadership?

Under my leadership we started the Women In Need program. We’ve always wanted to offer care to anyone no matter what her situation. And before we began that program, if the woman had breast cancer and no insurance we couldn’t see her because breast cancer is not considered and emergency, so they weren’t able to get care through the emergency room. There really was not other avenue by which they could get care. So we partnered with the KOMEN Organization and they’re the ones who have provided the financial backing for that program. We also have been able to obtain a number of private donations from grateful patients, patient’s families and other members of the community. We have a program called the Breast Cancer Action Group, which is a branch of the auxiliary at Einstein who raises money for breast cancer causes.

— Text and images by Caralyn Dienstman and Jane Babian.

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