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Published on October 08, 2015

Emotionally compatible doctors help patient get through diagnosis

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, local resident Carol Brown said she went numb, her face turning a ghostly white.

“There was no thought,” said Brown. “You just go blank. Its like getting shot.”
Brown, who has an anxiety disorder, said her emotions began to unravel. “We need to do the surgery right away,” she said to Dr. Susan Pories, co-director of the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital.

Recognizing Brown’s emotional state, Pories made an unpredictable pitch to a patient about to undergo a lumpectomy, an invasive surgery that involves cutting the body open to remove a breast tumor and some of the normal tissue surrounding it.

“How about tomorrow at noon?” Pories asked.

Two years later and now in remission, Brown still attributes the Mount Auburn staff and their attention to her mental state as a key factor in helping her overcome one of the biggest obstacles she ever faced.

According to Pories, while there is no rush to get into the operating room for breast cancer, she always tries to accommodate patients’ requests and individualize scheduling as much as possible.

“I find most people feel calmer once they have a good understanding of their situation,” said Pories. “It’s uncertainty that is difficult.”

Make no mistake, cancer is a long process that Brown says never really ends, but having a team of doctors she could trust made all the difference.
Following the lumpectomy, Brown had to undergo 30 rounds of radiation. She said Dr. Carolyn Lamb, chief of Breast Radiation Oncology, picked up where Pories left off, referring to Brown’s breasts as “puppies”. Not only did this make Brown laugh, but it also diffused some of the tension she had going into the treatment.

“They were wonderful because they handled my illness along with my emotions,” she said, adding the doctors told Brown she could call them anytime. “Dr. Pories knew my personality type needed to have surgery right away.”

Pories advises being direct, open and honest when trying to calm a patient.
“I always share all test results with patients, explain everything as clearly as I can, and provide written copies if desired,” she said.

After her experience, Brown emphasizes the importance of yearly mammograms, being extremely cautious when encountering pains or lumps and getting good treatment.

But the process doesn’t end there, she said, echoing the importance of finding a doctor that is emotionally compatible.

“Trust is a huge issue…and collaboration is so important,” said Brown. “They saved my life, these women. I would never give up my team.”

By Bram Berkowitz

Posted Oct. 8, 2015 at 10:35 AM on Wicked Local Belmont

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