Top Doctors 2011 Profile: Angela Keleher, M.D., Breast Cancer Surgery in Poughkeepsie
Battling breast cancer with technology and tender care
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“It’s exciting to be part of a medical field that’s making a difference,” says Angela Keleher, M.D. She’s director and lead breast surgeon for the Breast Care Center at the Dyson Center for Cancer Care at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie.
“We’re catching the disease earlier, in many cases,” she notes. “We have better screening tools and less-invasive surgery for breast cancer. The treatments are evolving, and we’re seeing better outcomes.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Keleher — who’s board certified — earned her medical degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I was always interested in science, and I really love surgery,” she says. She went on to complete her general surgery residency in Pittsburgh, her internship in Chicago, and her clinical breast fellowship at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Keleher first began working with cancer patients while going through surgical rotation as a med student. “I thought, ‘Here’s a real challenge; it’s mentally challenging, physically challenging, emotionally challenging. You can really help people here.’ There’s also a lot of breast cancer in my own family; my sister has had it twice.”
Prior to joining the Dyson Center, Keleher was chief of surgical breast oncology at Western Pennsylvania Hospital and an assistant professor at Temple University School of Medicine.
She says the world of breast cancer treatment is constantly evolving. “For example, stage four breast cancer is not automatically regarded as a death sentence anymore. It’s more like a chronic disease, in many cases. Like with diabetes, you check blood levels, you change and adjust the medicine when needed, you monitor the patient — that’s the direction treatment is going in.”
Advancements in treatment each year mean that recurrences of breast cancer can be more successfully treated, but only if former patients remain vigilant in the years after. “We’re seeing people coming in with a cancer recurrence after 10, 12, 17 years, and we go to work treating it. Just because you have a recurrence doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence,” Keleher says, stressing that each case is unique; some patients do have better outcomes than others.
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