Despite the painful stories about mammograms, the preventative compression test remains the best indicator of early breast cancer. And for those who must undergo surgery, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) alumna and breast surgeon Arianne Gallaty, MD, assures patients they can retain their femininity — that breast cancer surgery does not equal breast deformity.
“I want to bridge the gap to ensure women understand there is a cure and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to lose your breast or a have a big, ugly scar,” said the native of Belize who now lives in Texas and strives to educate women — especially minority women — on this topic. “People have this horrible idea that breast cancer is it — your breasts are going to be butchered and you will no longer feel or look like a woman living a normal life.
Gallaty, who specializes in diseases of the breast, spends half her time in the operating room and the other half serving as support for patients through the physical and emotional toll of cancer. Aside from the few who discover cancer late and must undergo radical surgery, many have options that best suit their lifestyle — a mastectomy, a partial mastectomy with radiation or a mastectomy with full reconstruction. “It is an individualized treatment approach.”
Breast Screenings Save Lives
Working in an area that has unfortunately plagued many of her loved ones, Gallaty advocates for early screenings — monthly self-checks and annual physical exams. She also reminds women to begin mammograms at age 40 or earlier if there’s a high family risk. “The earlier we catch it, the better the outcome.” The goal is to prevent spread but also to slow the rise of breast cancer in young women.
Though the global pandemic has caused some women to skip screenings, Gallaty pushes for women to stay the course. She’s even embracing the onset of telemedicine. “It’s not the easiest way to conduct an exam” but has been successful in certain follow-up appointments such as reviewing post-surgical incisions.
Exposed to multiple cultures and ethnicities in Belize, Gallaty moved to the U.S. for undergraduate studies and began teaching at a New Orleans charter high school while applying to medical school. The fishing enthusiast who enjoys dabbling in nature photography enrolled at RUSM because it reminded her of what she missed from her native country.
“It was a homecoming and life-changing experience,” she said of her time on Dominica. “You interact with the locals and meet people from different cultures. The education on the island and electives in the U.S. gave me such a well-rounded perspective in medicine. You realize that not everyone is exposed to the same healthcare. I’m very proud to see how my country has progressively changed since I was there. They now have chemotherapy but not radiation. My hope is that soon future citizens there and in other developing countries can get the full scope of cancer care to live better lives.”
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