A Conversation with Shannon N. Tierney, MD, MS, FACS
Augusta Health Breast Surgery
Shannon N. Tierney, MD, MS, FACS provides an exclusive focus on the treatment of breast cancer and benign breast disease at a new specialty practice in the Medical Office Building at Augusta Health—Augusta Health Breast Surgery. She trained at the University of Virginia in general surgery, and then at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in breast surgery. Dr. Tierney also earned a Masters' Degree in health evaluation sciences. Before returning to the Shenandoah Valley, she practiced for several years in Seattle, Washington.
"When I tell people that I'm a breast surgeon, many ask, 'What exactly is a breast surgeon?'" says Dr. Tierney. "And I will admit, the title 'breast surgeon' is a bit misleading because my practice is much more than just surgery. After my general surgery training, I was lucky enough to be able to train with some of the best breast surgeons in the world at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. While there, I completed an additional year of specialized training focused on the latest research and up-to-date techniques to diagnosis and manage breast disease."
"With this exclusive focus, I have robust training in non-surgical approaches as well as the surgical techniques," she explains. "This is a great benefit to our patients. Our goal is to provide the best outcome possible, and our ability to provide multiple options for treatment is what leads us to those better patient outcomes."
Patients might be referred to Dr. Tierney by a primary care physician, a radiologist after an imaging study or an oncologist. Patients can also self-refer to Dr. Tierney. "Most women know their own bodies very well," she says, "so they are often the first to notice a difference or have a concern. Working together, we will assess and evaluate the condition—and that will lead to either working up a plan of care or the reassurance that all is OK. Many patients are at first reluctant or fearful to see me with their concerns because they don't want to have radiation or surgery. But that's actually a reason to be seen as soon as possible—early detection means more treatment options, including non-surgical options. So the earlier we can discover and discuss the concern, the better."
Dr. Tierney sees all patients with breast concerns, but jokes she has a special interest in doing less, not more. "With the treatment of breast cancer and lesions, the rules have changed. Years ago, the answer was to do a surgery that took as much as possible. Now, we're always working to determine how we can take or do less: Taking fewer lymph nodes, preserving as much breast tissue as possible, saving nipples, creating smaller or hidden scars and even reducing hair loss. We want to cure cancer with the least side effects and difficulties possible but with the same good outcomes."
"The impact of breast cancer is not just on the patient, it's on her entire family," she adds. "Like all cancers, it disrupts everything that is normal about life. We work in hopes that cancer can take a 'back seat' to the rest of life. We work to be in a place where are patients are people or wives or moms or employees first, and then are defined as a cancer patient last."
Plans for the Augusta Health Breast Surgery practice that have already been implemented or scheduled for the next six to twelve months are abundant and include:
Magnetic seed or mag seed: A mag seed is a small magnetic marker about the size of a grain of rice that marks breast lesions for surgery. It can be placed up to 30 days before surgery. It replaces an uncomfortable metal wire that had to be placed early the day of surgery;
Hidden Scar: A type of breast cancer surgery where the scars are not visible after the incision heals;
Upgraded imaging technology in the operating room to improve 'margins' in surgery;
Veraform: a tissue marker that is placed in the tumor area after the lesion has been removed to mark it for follow-up imaging; and
Cold capping: A cold cap is a special hat worn during chemotherapy to keep the scalp cool and reduce hair loss.
"We want to provide the best outcomes and best experience possible for all our patients," says Dr. Tierney. "A patient does not have to travel to a big academic center to get academic level care. They can get the same quality of care, in a more responsive environment, right here in their own community."
For more information about breast services or to make an appointment with Dr. Tierney, please contact:
AUGUSTA HEALTH BREAST SURGERY
70 Medical Center Circle
Fishersville, VA 22939
Monday through Friday
8:00 am – 4:30 pm