Breast cancer links local community to Romania

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 273 views 

One common theme — the fight against breast cancer — has united medical professionals from different sides of the globe this week in Fayetteville.

Drs. Marius Coros and Dana Claudia Roman of Targu-Mures, Romania have spent the past seven days in Northwest Arkansas conferring with Dr. Kevin Pope and Sarah Faitak and other breast health specialists from The Breast Center of Northwest Arkansas in a teaching visit hosted by MANA Clinic.

It is first time to the U.S. for Coros, who made the trip in hopes of learning the latest techniques in breast imaging for better and earlier detection. Coros, chief of surgery in Romania, said two-thirds of the cases in his country are diagnosed in late stages, partly because there are not enough regular screening programs.

He and Roman, an oncologist, practice and teach in Targu-Mures, which is located in central Transylvania.

The Fayetteville-Romanian connection dates back to 2007 when Faitak, a nurse and director for The Breast Care Center, attended a Global Health Summit in Budapest in connection with the Susan G. Komen organization, where she is an advocate.

“During that summit I met a breast cancer survivor from Targu-Mures named Stella. Another delegate from the U.S. traveled back to Romania with Stella to learn more about the needs there. At the time they needed an ultrasound machine, biopsy needles and biopsy gun,” Faitak said.

After talking with local doctors here about how they could help with supplies, Pope wanted to do more. In 2008, Pope and Faitak went to Targu-Mures and took along biopsy needles and a mammogram machine to teach the technique and give doctors there more exposure to this method of diagnosis which has been widely used in the U.S. for the past 15 years.

While the Romanian doctors had the knowledge about the procedure they lacked the supplies and equipment to put it in use.

Pope said that began a conversation between the medical teaching team at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Targu-Mures and local doctors in Northwest Arkansas, which has provided them opportunities to share techniques, supplies and form friendships with colleagues who possess a common mission.

Since that time, doctors from Romania have made two trips to Northwest Arkansas and Pope plans to return to Targu-Mures next year.

During this visit, Coros and Roman were honored with a reception by the medical community on Wednesday. Local surgeons are sending the Romanians back with a handsome gift as well. Coros said the main goal he had in making this trip to was to get more information and training on sentinel node biopsies, in the detection and diagnosis phase, which requires a gamma neoprobe device.

“If the cancer has spread from the breast it’s likely to go to the sentinel node first before it travels to other nodes. By testing the sentinel node for detection of cancer cells we have a better way to categorize staging. For instance, if the cancer is not found in the sentinel node there is no reason to remove the other nodes from the under the arm. This provides for a less invasive surgery,” Pope said.

Before this visit, Coros said the sentinel node biopsies were seldom done in his practice because the dye process which had to be used was difficult and not that effective. The surgeons at North Hills Surgery Center in Fayetteville donated a gamma neoprobe to Coros who’s eager to use it when he returns to Romania.

“It was time for the surgeons here to update this machine and they offered it to Dr.Coros and his team free of charge. It’s a valuable gift and just one example of how our community has embraced this collaboration,” Pope said.

Roman said the past week has been quite busy as she visited extensively with local oncologists, pathologists and a new hospice center. For fun she visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Wednesday (June 20) saying "it was a nice surprise."

With respect to the rest of the trip, Roman added,“I was also impressed that while the treatment is much the same in both countries the approach is quite different.”

She was excited to see the team approach in use between all the various professionals who are involved in treating cancer patients.

“It is a very organized network in comfortable facilities through each step of treatment. We don’t have that in Romania,” Roman said.

Coros said the family doctor in Romania is the main information link for that population, which is still lacking in fundamental education about screening, self-breast exams and mammograms. 

Fatik said Komen has a presence in Romania, but talking about the issue is not part of the ongoing conversations among families and friends like it has become in this country.

“At the end of the day we are more alike than we are different. We share a common mission and often many of the same obstacles as we work together in this ongoing fight against breast cancer,” Pope said.

Every 19 seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every 74 seconds another person on this planet dies from the disease, because it wasn’t detected early enough. That’s all the motivation these doctors say they need to keep the conversation going.