MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – As a physician specializing on high risk pregnancies, Elyce Cardonick said she has a wall in her office covered with photos of some of the pregnant women she has helped, after an ill-timed cancer diagnosis.
She said the photos of their healthy children inspire her every day to continue her life-saving research. She helps to track, document and present data on the cancer survivors' children. She hopes that the findings will help doctors to never have to hear a patient say that they will sacrifice their own chance of survival for their baby.
"When I meet with a patient I try not not to focus on just the one aspect, but look at the whole patient, her whole family unit," the Cooper University Healthcare physician said.
She tries "to relate to how this issue might affect them now during the nine months of pregnancy" and long term on "how she cares for her children."
Cardonick, of New Jersey, was one of the more than 1,500 physicians from all over the world who are at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach Thursday through Sunday for the 32nd annual Miami Breast Cancer meeting.
In the ongoing war, the disease that recently killed Miami's beloved Lorena Rojas, a starring actress with Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision, after years of treatment -- also killed an estimated 40,000 patients last year.
Conference chairman Dr. Patrick Borgen said that although "acknowledging that there is a lot of road to be traveled" when it comes to finding a cure, it is not too early to celebrate "the small victories that we have had along the way."
"It is not just about taking out the cancer, or poisoning it, or burning it" the chairman of the surgery department of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn said Thursday night. "It really is about considering the entire patient; treating the whole patient."
Visit the health section on Local10.com for more updates from the conference.
Borgen said physicians need to be aware of the many ways available to minimize side-effects in order to improve the patient's experience and in the near future consider incorporating more effective treatments that may increase their risk.
There is a current debate in the medical community about "over treatment and under treatment," Borgen said. And he hopes the meeting's discussions will help physicians find a balance.
"There are trade offs with all of our treatments," Borgen said and physicians can be better equipped to help their patients understand the implications of the treatments -- in a more compassionate approach that involves patients in the decision making process.
Witnessing physicians' perceptions change, after a lecture that is no more than 15 minutes long, "is very heartening for those of us who want to make a difference," Borgen said. He added that doctors are seeing "more and more patients surviving longer" and "that's a good problem to have."
On Friday morning, a world renowned Harvard Cancer Center researcher held a discussions about misinformation that is out there in regards to screening mammography. A highly regarded MD Anderson Cancer Center researcher talked about the latest advances in breast cancer diagnosis. And a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center genetics expert talked about identifying those with the inherited risk.
During the busy weekend schedule, there will also be discussions about breakthroughs on pain management and the new scientific findings to improve customized therapy for breast cancer, which is not a single disease but a family of diseases.
"It is an incredibly rapidly changing field. That's a good thing, because it means that lots of studies are going on, lots of money is being invested," Borgen said. "Lots of people are looking at the problem from different perspectives. It's a hard thing, because its hard for doctors to sort of keep up."
AWARENESS MONTH: Let's talk about breast cancer
Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10