Breast Cancer Surgery, No More a Removing but a Retaining 'Paik Nam-sun'
Breast cancer treatment is no small ordeal. Why not start by finding the best breast cancer doctors from around the world? How about seeking advice from a doctor who is listed among the Top 100 Health Professionals by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England (largest publishers of biographical dictionaries) whose breast reconstruction surgery methods have been studied worldwide? Breast reconstruction surgery expert, Dr. Paik Nam-sun, the director of the cancer center at Ewha Womans University, is a notable surgeon to consult.
Dr. Paik is a pioneer and one of the best in breast reconstruction surgery and his unique method to retain the breast in its original form while cancer of its cells has been continuously studied all over the world. His method eliminates the common fear among women of breast deformation or dematerialization. Eliminating breast cancer is the most important procedure to a patient. But appearance is no trivial matter for women either. Korea IT Times has interviewed Dr. Paik at his hospital, Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women, on his expertise about breast-conservation surgery.
Q What do you think of the core reasons, why the Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women has been selected as a leading hospital among female patients?
Dr. Paik: “Well, as you know, Ewha Womans University is the world’s largest all-women’s university and our [cancer center] hospital is a part of it. Ewha Womans Univeristy Hospital has attained Joint Commission International (JCI) Quality Approval. It is a global standard hospital whereby patients can trust the quality of the hospital's service. As part of the hospital, Ewha Womans Cancer Center has a very special administrative system. If a patient visits the hospital suspecting cancer, we can confirm the diagnosis on the same day. Usually it takes one or two weeks to confirm the diagnosis but we can quickly do it. Furthermore, it is important for a hospital to have confidence for cancer patients. At our hospital we have a special area designated for female patients, and this one place will check all necessary suspicions for diagnosing cancer (breast cancer, thyroid cancer, and gynecologic cancer).”
Q Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women is well known for a larger number of international patients. What do you think are the reasons for international patients to choose this particular cancer center? What is the number of visitors from other countries, and, are they satisfied?
Dr. Paik: “Last year more than ten thousand patients visited our hospital. As you know, I have a special technique for the special design for breast cancer surgery. Breast cancer surgery is to remove the total breast, but I started the breast conservation surgery in 1986, which removes the breast cancer but the form of the breast is retained. As this result was novel worldwide, our hospital received visits. As Ewha Womans University Hospital was approved as a Joint Commission International (JCI), this hospital has received a global standard for quality. Last year we had visitors from the Middle East, North America, Mexico, Norway, China, Pakistan, Mongolia, Norway, and Hungary for operations. This way, the recurrence of breast cancer is very low while the survival rate is very high, and also the cosmetic effect is aesthetic. Recently, patients not only wanted to cure breast cancer but they also wanted a cosmetic effect.Two months ago two patients from Abu Dhabi were admitted for breast cancer and after treatment they returned very satisfied. The level of Korea Medicine is quite high. I think it is some of the best in the world, so many cancer patients visit Korea from all over the world at Ewha Womans University Cancer Center.”
Q Creative Economy has been a buzz word from the Korean government. Being creative, how does this affect current activities on medical practice and on your medical philosophy?
Dr. Paik: “I designed the breast cancer reconstruction surgery. Breast cancer surgery is to totally remove the breast but I save the nipple and the skin and after surgery the breast is retained in almost its original form. That is why we get international visits to our hospital. The government recently wanted to promote this as a kind of tour. In the papers it was written that doctors from many countries visited our hospital to be educated about the technique.” Dr. Paik shares his expertise with professionals in Germany, Hungary, and the United States.
Q Please introduce the cutting-edge medical devices which Ewha Womans University Cancer Center for Women possesses.
Dr. Paik: “Several cutting-edge medical devices exist at our facility. For diagnosis, tomosynthesis mammography differs from the usual mammographic x-ray. And we have a special trilogy that is specially designed for the treatment of cancer radiation therapy—the only one in Korea. And we have a one of two 128-channel PET-CTs in Korea. (A PET-CT can detect any trace of cancer in the whole body with one examination, which can detect cancer cells invisible to other video diagnostic equipment, excelling in early diagnosis and treatment of cancers.) A PET-CT usually takes one hour but at our hospital it will only take twenty minutes with very low radiation hazard. For breast diagnosis, Breast Specific Gamma Imaging is owned by Ewha, which is a rare device in Korea.”
Q This past May, you have promoted the newest breast cancer surgery methods to China. What is the latest surgery method?
Dr. Paik: “Last May, I was invited to China. As they wanted to know about my technique, I performed two operations about breast-conservation surgery. Before visiting China, I went to Mongolia to operate on several cases of breast cancer. I then visited a cancer center in Kazakhstan, Oskemen and there I did the procedure. Last year, I too visited Hungary to do breast surgery. My special technique saves the nipple and the skin after the surgery and unbeknownst to patients there is no difference in the breast shape. The patients were very satisfied. It appears that my technique is known all over the world.”
Q Researchers in Japan have successfully studied the utilization of stem cells in breast reconstruction. As you are an expert on breast reconstruction surgery, what is your view about the direction in which breast reconstruction surgery of the future will develop?
Dr. Paik: “There are several kinds of breast reconstruction therapy. One method is stem cell treatment but still it is not popular all over the world. We can also do stem cell treatment if there is slight disfigurement of the breast, but, we usually transfer the patient’s own tissue. Or, if the defect is large, we insert an artificial implant. There are several kinds of breast reconstruction methods for breast cancer but in Korea stem cells are not popular. In Japan it is also not popular; just a few clinical trials have been performed.”
According to Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human services, “A high-quality mammogram plus a clinical breast exam, an exam done by your doctor, is the most effective way to detect breast cancer early.” Furthermore, United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends women ages 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every two years and women younger than 50 should consult a doctor about when to start, and how often to have, a mammogram.
How to prevent breast cancer? There is many non-expert advice camouflaged as the expert recommendation available online in regards to prevention of breast cancer. However, Dr. Paik has drawn attention from the media with his ‘ten commandments’ for cancer prevention: have three to six cloves of garlic every day, exercise on a regular basis, eat whole grain, fish, vegetables, and fruit, develop a method to relieve stress based on a positive mindset, enjoy singing and traveling, have one or two glasses of wine a day, reduce coffee to two cups a day or instead substitute with tea, have lots of selenium, and carefully choose your spouse.