A special interview with City of Hope’s Dr. Dortha Chu
Cancer treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. City of Hope as a comprehensive cancer center is dedicated to transforming the future of health into a life saving science. Under its mission to cure the body while restoring the soul, Dr. Dortha Chu has proven to be a valuable asset for City of Hope’s local facility by bringing medical awareness and accessibility to the community. Her decision to make the move to Santa Clarita a year ago to specialize in breast cancer surgery was motivated by the tremendous resources offered to women in this valley to pursue the right choices in healthcare through accurate screening and diagnosis. “I approach cancer care with realistic optimism so the people I counsel can leave my office having hope and a sense of purpose,” she said.
After 10 years of practice, Dr. Chu has mastered the hidden scar technique—a mentality that looks beyond just cancer treatment to the lifestyle of survivorship. With carefulness behind every cut, she can anticipate the area that is best suited to hide the scarring so the patient no longer has to worry about the physical and emotional reminder of surgery; in some cases, the scar is no longer visible. Her operating strategy for lumpectomies, removing part of the breast, and mastectomies, removing the whole breast with plastic surgeon assisted reconstruction, is to safely manipulate the tissue while saving the cosmetic shape. Demonstrating her attention to patient care, she also uses tattoo artists for women who may want to create something beautiful with their scar. While the number one priority is to cure the cancer, maintaining the cosmetic result and natural feel of the breast is becoming of greater importance. “Cancer patients endure so much as it is,” Dr. Chu said, “After treatment, we want them to look and feel good too.”
Besides surgery, Dr. Chu continues to follow the progress of recovering cancer patients and consult with the newly diagnosed. She is also heavily involved in clinical risk reduction management; when in the last five years, breast oncology has not only made strides toward improved surgical procedures, but also its genetic research to help women reduce their risk. This multi-step prevention process begins with genetic counseling in which Dr. Chu discusses family history with the patient and examines certain clusters of genes that raise concern for developing cancerous patterns. Since not all cancers are inherited, the mutation is first identified by genetic testing, then screened and monitored throughout treatment to build understanding of the data collected.
Genomic discoveries are on the horizon, which personalizes treatment through new medication that targets the cancerous gene to lower future risk and recurrence rate. A promising innovation such as this could predict the appropriate course of action depending on the disease, even to the extent of indicating the potential benefits or dangers of chemotherapy on an individual basis. Dr. Chu is a strong advocate for early screening and proper education on all the possibilities that lie within ones genetic makeup.
In partnership with City of Hope, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital promotes health through its advanced and available services. Dr. Chu describes the hospital’s Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center as a top-notch gem the women of SCV can utilize for regular screening. Her volunteer efforts with Circle of Hope and other non-profits has created a cancer outreach that she can both be proud of and pass along to others in need. City of Hope’s team of medical Oncologists, genetic counselors, and other multi-discipline physicians have joined forces in its Santa Clarita community practice site, she can focus solely on her heart’s calling for cancer care. “My work is my family,” Dr. Chu said, ”I love what we do and the passion we share.”
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