Leading Surgeon Specializing in Breast Preservation During Cancer Treatment Shares Latest Developments in the Field

Dr. Rhonda Wachsmuth Image courtesy of Breast Cancer Surgery

With over 2 decades of surgical experience, Dr. Rhonda Wachsmuth leads an all-woman practice, maintaining a crisp focus on breast disease. She has pioneered many of the treatments that have dramatically reduced the need for invasive breast surgeries.

“I’ve been through most of the major changes over the last 20 years,” said Dr. Wachsmuth. “Everything that’s happened has followed a route of less and less surgery, and that makes this an exciting time to be in this field.”

Just a few of the efforts to protect health outcomes while improving cosmetic outcomes for patients include:

  • Dr. Wachsmuth participated in the original sentinel lymph node biopsy study that proved the effectiveness of the procedure and established some of the early guidelines for its use. By reducing the need for axillary lymph node dissection, the breast can be kept more intact in many cases. This technique can even be effective with patients that test positive for lymph node disease.
  • Dr. Wachsmuth was very quick to adopt stereotactic wire localization biopsy. By guiding the surgeon to the correct location, less tissue can be removed during the biopsy.
  • Dr. Wachsmuth is very supportive of the work being done on the HER2 gene. By identifying this gene during pathology, targeted therapies can specifically address HER-positive cancers.
  • Dr. Wachsmuth is also a strong supporter of the latest advances in medical oncology. She is currently using Biozorb, a device to assist in precision targeting of radiation treatments to reduce the damage to healthy tissue.

As part of these advances to reduce unneeded surgery, Dr. Wachsmuth added another tool to her suite in the fight against breast cancer: MarginProbe. “Whether we’re talking about as lymph nodes versus axillary dissection, lumpectomies versus mastectomies, the trend is to always reduce the requirement for surgery, and I feel that MarginProbe falls right into that,” the physician stated. “I hate to take a patient back to the OR. But in the past, I had to do pretty large lumpectomies to ensure that I did not have positive margins and prevent the need for additional surgeries. With MarginProbe, I take more margins than I would previously, yet I’m starting out with a much smaller lumpectomy, as the probe has give me the confidence to remove less tissue overall.”

MarginProbe helps to preserve breast tissue

“In one of my first cases using MarginProbe, I had a positive margin and I took additional tissue to prevent the need to go back in later,” the surgeon continued. “The tumor turned out to be DCIS, but it looked fine in videography and I probably would not have caught it without MarginProbe. This is a patient that would most likely have needed to go back to surgery remove an additional margin.”

MarginProbe assists Dr. Wachsmuth in improving cosmetic outcomes beyond reducing the need for extra surgeries. “I’m a big believer in hidden scar procedures, where I place my excisions strategically in areas like the mammary fold so they will not be as easily seen,” she explained. “I also believe that when you take less tissue out, you have less contour abnormality and less deformity in the breast. As I move tissue around to strategic locations to try and fill up the breast cavity, MarginProbe has been a big help as the smaller the cavity, the less tissue I need to move around.”

Dr. Wachsmuth explained that less tissue needs to be taken with MarginProbe due to the tool’s precise nature compared with other detection methods, such as an x-ray. “X-ray has always been a very gross evaluation,”the surgeon stated. “With x-ray, I’ll be concerned about a margin that wasn’t even close, or there is a margin that I never would have thought is positive, and yet it is. This prompted me to take very generous lumpectomies to be safe, as I hated to have to go back in later. Now, I can rely on MarginProbe to tell me if I need to take more tissue.”

Documenting the reduction in tissue removal with MarginProbe

After a 60 case evaluation, she has very positive impressions. “I know that I’m taking much smaller lumpectomies,” said Dr. Wachsmuth. “The results of my evaluation conclude a 67% reduction in positive margins from 12% to 4% and a 23% reduction in main specimen size – overall tissue volume removed is same.”

Why is the physician making this effort? “I think we already cure the majority of breast cancer patients,” declared Dr. Wachsmuth. “But I also believe that women should not have to look in the mirror and feel the stigma of having been treated for breast cancer.”

Rhonda Wachsmuth, M.D.

  • Practicing with Georgia Breast Care since 2013
  • Started specialization in management of all breast related disorders in 1993
  • Residency in General Surgery from Carolinas Medical Center, where she was Chief Resident from 1992-1993
  • Medical Degree from Medical University of South Carolina, 1988

Associations

  • Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
  • American Society of Breast Surgeons
  • American Society of General Surgeons
  • Medical Association of Georgia

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Dune Medical.

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