The anguish of cancer recurrence, agony and fear of death often disrupt the lives of patients with advanced breast cancer. Therefore, it is essential that an oncologist not only provide the highest quality cancer therapy, but also address the impact of the disease on a patient’s overall well-being.
Dr. Jason Copeland, a Jamaican Breast Surgical Oncologist, is one such specialist who devotes all his effort and attention to breast health. Her passion for providing holistic care to cancer patients inspired her to open the first specialized breast care facility in Jamaica, the Breast Health & Oncology Care Centre.
His strong desire to make a difference stems from his early experiences as a young surgical intern. Although effective breast cancer treatments are available in Jamaica, Dr. Copeland saw the need to expand breast care as many young women were diagnosed but received inadequate care.
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“In my training as a young surgeon, I saw a lot of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, a lot of them were also young women, and what was happening, and I know it’s still happening. , is that a lot of them are just treated with a mastectomy, without any reconstruction, and they’re left pretty deformed and it’s lifelong,” he said.
Referring to one of the significant cases that led him to pursue this quest, he said that many women feel depressed not only because they have cancer, but also because of the way their bodies look. .
“I had a 19 year old daughter maybe about 15 years ago, at that time I was a very young surgical intern. She presented with very aggressive breast cancer, had a mastectomy and it happened again and she finally made it but at 19 the only thing we did for her was a mastectomy, and you could see how depressed she was and how she felt about all of that. Even though she had aggressive cancer, she was so upset with how she looked,” he recounted.
During his development, he recognized that there were other treatments for breast cancer patients, but he needed additional training outside of Jamaica to learn those skills. He was driven to study abroad at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York to make a significant contribution to breast cancer treatment in Jamaica.
After graduating from school in 2020, he planned to use his advanced skills to start his breast health center. That dream quickly became a reality after partnering with Andrews Memorial Hospital, which also had a vision to advance breast cancer care in the country. Their combined efforts resulted in Jamaica’s first specialized breast oncology center.
The Breast Health and Oncology Center, located within Andrews Memorial Hospital, officially opened on February 4, 2021 and offers personalized multidisciplinary care for breast cancer patients. breast as well as comprehensive care for benign (non-cancerous) breast conditions.
Dr. Copeland, the visionary, explained that the services offered by his team are in the best interest of women suffering from this condition, as he and his colleagues take a modern approach to administering the ultimate breast care.
“So the breast and oncology center here, what we have is myself as an in-house surgical breast oncologist, we also have a team of medical oncologists, and we have a specialist affiliated, so like radiation oncologists, we can see a patient, who has breast cancer, have a full assessment of the patient, and have an integrated multidisciplinary consultation and assessment of that patient, and then make the best decision within the team and for patient care. And this is how breast cancer should be treated in 2022.”
Additionally, Dr. Copeland shared that he and his team also promote breast cancer education among the Jamaican population as there are many misconceptions regarding its causes and treatments.
“I think we are far behind in terms of educating people about breast cancer. Yet there are a lot of myths about breast cancer in terms of what causes it and how it should be treated, so a lot of people still show up very late with their diagnosis of breast cancer I think we have a long way to go in terms of educating the population when it comes to breast cancer.
He said the Breast Health and Oncology Center strives to achieve its goal by raising awareness. This is accomplished by organizing breast cancer presentations to schools, churches, banking institutions and insurance companies.
Additionally, Dr. Copeland prioritizes the production of newsletters that provide valuable information to medical practitioners and members of his team on emerging topics related to breast cancer.
“We have a quarterly newsletter that I sit down and do most of the writing. It is generally aimed at general practitioners, physicians, as well as the general public when we talk about certain aspects of breast disease, where we try to educate a patient about treatment options and our doctors about certain things that are new in breast cancer. ”
He further noted that although breast cancer comes with physical challenges, many women experience emotional distress. Therefore, he seeks to provide care that goes beyond physical attention, but also addresses mental and emotional issues by fostering a strong doctor-patient relationship.
“One of the most important things is that patients want to feel that they are talking to someone who cares about what is happening to them and that it is not just about treating a disease or treating cancer, but a patient has to be comfortable with you so that you can develop that trust, that surgeon-patient relationship.
The passionate doctor said the words ‘Believe’ and ‘Hope’, which hang on the centre’s wall, are an encouragement for women and that breast cancer should not be seen as a death sentence.
“I will encourage women to say that it is 2022, many women with breast cancer are doing well,” he added, noting that with proper and timely treatment, the hope of life has increased dramatically.
Although breast cancer can be an emotionally draining disease because it affects a symbol of femininity, which is the breast, Dr. Copeland encourages women to have hope and believe that they will survive the fight.
In light of this, he encourages doctors to be compassionate when caring for these patients, as women will have different emotions towards them.
“It’s very important that you don’t have a blanket approach to your patients and [that] you take the time to talk to your patient about how she feels about it (her diagnosis),” he encouraged.
His drive to educate his patients, colleagues and, by extension, the wider Jamaican population about breast cancer, has made him one of the island’s breast health heroes.
Through the Breast Health & Oncology Care Center, Dr. Copeland strives to facilitate access to the highest standards of interdisciplinary care for patients with breast cancers and other breast diseases. The center seeks to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with breast cancer in Jamaica while improving the quality of life of patients.