Local Doctor Treats Breast Cancer Patients Around the World

A recent profile in the Orange County Register examines the career and good works of breast cancer surgeon Dr. Jay Harness:

Laguna Woods resident Dr. Jay Harness is known for his work in breast and endocrine surgery on both a national and an international level. But that isn’t all – Harness is also a humanitarian. He believes that everyone, no matter where they live or their financial background, deserves the same treatment to treat their disease.

Dr. Jay Harness addressing Breast Cancer Conference in Lima, Peru

He has a deep commitment to treating homeless and poor women here in the United States and he also travels to [other] countries to teach doctors various techniques. His latest trip was to Ghana, other trips have also included Peru.

Others speak of his global leadership:

“I’m proud to call Jay Harness my friend and colleague. He is truly a global leader in breast cancer surgery today. He is past president of some very prestigious groups, such as The American Society of Breast Surgeons,” said Dr. Ben Anderson, chairman
and director of the Breast Health Global Initiative.

“He is helping us develop courses for surgeons in low and middle income countries, especially in the use of ultrasound techniques.

He just came back from Ghana, which was one of our first, but he’s been all over the world and I know he’ll be doing many more for us in the near future. He did a superb educational conference that included lectures and hands on sections.”

Dr. Harness talks of his interest in offering his expertise to the underserved and working poor:

According to Harness, most of us don’t really know who the underserved and poor really are, “a stereotype is that of someone who has some kind of addiction and is looking for a handout.

The truth is that most are working at regular jobs that do not give their employees’ health insurance.

My own son pays to cover his kids, but can’t afford to add himself to the policy.”

The career of Dr. Harness is chronicled:

Graduating from the University of Michigan Medical school and spending his internship and residency there, he remained on the faculty and helped develop the country’s second multi-disciplinary breast center in 1985.

“It was a funny turn of events in my career. It was almost 27 years ago and we were having a faculty meeting. The idea of having a center where women could come and see a team and come up with an individual plan was very appealing to me.

“The chief of radiology was an emerging expert on the idea of conserving a woman’s breast as much as possible. Everyone in the room was asked to volunteer and even the experts in the field raised their hands at this fantastic opportunity.

So I raised mine.

The University of Michigan Breast Care Center opened in February 1985 and quickly became a world model. What we were doing wasn’t really rocket science, it was using common sense,” Harness said.

Harness went on to open up a center in Boston at St. Elizabeth’s in 1990. He spent 12 years in Oakland and joined the University of California East Bay Department of Surgery, where he was a professor and Chief of Surgical Oncology at Highland General Hospital.

Then came the chance to come to St. Joseph’s Hospital to direct the opening of the Comprehensive Breast Center in Orange. It opened in the summer of 2003.

Dr. Harness speaks of extending good breast cancer care and his We Live You philosophy throughout the world:

With research, techniques and medications to treat breast cancer always changing, Harness feels that both women here and in the rest of the world need to use every resource they can find to get the latest information.

“The Breast Health Global Initiative by Dr. Ben Anderson at the University of Washington and the Susan G. Komen Foundation are giving funds for us to go and train hospitals to do needle biopsies.

The doctors in the underdeveloped countries are highly educated and are eager to learn. “We had a 5-day conference in Ghana and we had to go over practical operating room and bedside procedures.”

The profile captures Dr. Harness addressing the future:

And about the future of breast cancer research, where does Harness see it going next?

He said he feels the medical community needs to focus and continue to learn about things on the molecular level. “Why do some abnormal cells die, while others don’t?
“We need to know that. There are a few hundred different kinds of breast cancer and every woman is different, that’s what is great about the multi-disciplinary centers.

We have an oncologist, a radiologist, possibly a plastic surgeon and a psychologist and many others all under the same roof. With that availability, we can customize a plan of attack for each woman and her particular cancer.

“Newly diagnosed women are treated by specialists who are focused on the disease. And the most important thing for women to know is that the other focus is on conserving as much of the breast as possible.”

Dr. Harness also commented on a U.S. government panel‘s recommendation that women in their 40s no longer need annual mammograms:

Not long ago a news release from the government suggested that women did not need to have the long advised yearly mammogram and Harness had this to say, “I’d venture to say most of us in the field couldn’t possibly agree with that.

By having this yearly test we’ve saved so many lives.

Prior to the exams many lumps wouldn’t be found until they were [at least] 3 centimeters [in size] and then drastic measures were in order.

Since we instated the screening, most lumps are caught at less than 1 centimeter [in size], which give the patient and the doctor a [number of] less invasive choices.

If interested in more about the career of Dr. Jay Harness click here.

Or, speak to Dr. Harness yourself.

By contacting Dr. Harness at his patient care office in Orange, California.

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