Difficult Conversations Podcast

Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician

Episode 159 | November 16, 2021

Difficult Conversations About Breast Cancer

Dr. Michele Blackwood

Director of Breast Surgical Services at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Michele Blackwood

Welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Even though October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, breast cancer should be on our minds all year round. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to talk about breast cancer and the many difficult conversations associated with this diagnosis than my special guest, Dr. Michele Blackwood. She is currently the Chief of Breast Services at RWJ/ Barnabas Health and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. She also serves as the Northern Medical Director of Breast Services and joined St. Barnabas Medical Center as the Medical Director of Breast Health and Disease Management in 2009. Michele has appeared on national and local media programs, including Fox Five, “60 Minutes,” CBS’s Early Show, and Good Day New York. Even with all her credentials, it is her reputation for the compassionate manner in which she practices and her ability to navigate the many difficult conversations that make her special. My Co-host today is Liz Poret-Christ, who is our Director of Programming at The Orsini Way and a patient of Dr. Blackwoods.

Dr. Blackwood tells us about her career. She shares the many ways the breast cancer field has evolved dramatically and how survival rates are so much better. Dr. Orsini reveals some incredible statistics about breast cancer. They talk about how healing can begin when you first hear the diagnosis and how medicine is about relationships, and not about the surgery. Liz shares how her conversation went when she found out she had breast cancer. Michele takes us through her approach, her plan, and her thoughts on how she has the initial conversation with a patient. We learn how Michele handles each patient’s situation, forms that special relationship with each person, and how she gives them options and guidance. Liz tells us more about how grateful she was with Michele letting her know the best path for her to take with her diagnosis. Michele explains more about physicians evolving in their style over time and how her style has changed. She also explains how she addresses a lot of things with her patients so they will be in sync with her to have a better outcome after surgery. We find out how Michele approaches her most difficult conversation with faith, comfort, and quality of life. We end with Dr. Orsini, Michele, and Liz sharing their words of wisdom, with this being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.

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