Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Montes of Hunterdon Healthcare Breast Care Program

By Taylor Smith 

What do you specialize in and what is your educational background?

I am board certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery specializing in malignant and benign diseases of the breast. I am a current and active member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. I received my undergraduate education at Cornell University and earned a master of public health from Columbia University prior to graduating from Temple University School of Medicine. I then proceeded to complete my general surgery residency at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, followed by a fellowship in breast surgical oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center.

My interest in breast surgery began very early in my career, during my surgical rotation as a third year medical student. During that time I worked closely with a female general surgeon who ran the breast clinic at the hospital where I was training. It wasn’t long before I realized that breast surgery was my true calling. In addition to performing life-saving operations, I loved being able to form meaningful and long-lasting relationships with my patients that reached far beyond the operating room. The field combined my love of surgery and women’s health. It was a perfect fit.

What is the Hunterdon Regional Breast Care Program?

The Hunterdon Regional Breast Care Program (HRBCP) combines a comfortable, supportive environment with state-of-the-art, comprehensive diagnostic and treatment resources, all conveniently close to home. At HRBCP, we take a coordinated approach to breast care, for both well care and cancer care. A highly-skilled team of breast specialists from different medical disciplines provides diagnostic testing, genetic risk assessment, treatment, surgery, psychosocial support, education, and rehabilitation. We focus on empowering women of all ages and meeting the needs of each patient from before diagnosis, throughout their treatment, and well after recovery.

The HRBCP is accredited as a nationally-approved Breast Center by The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), the only national accreditation program specifically for breast disease. We were also awarded the Women’s Choice Award in 2014 for America’s Best Breast Center.

Describe Hunterdon Breast Surgery Center’s relationship with Hunterdon Women’s Imaging Center.

The Imaging Center and Breast Surgery Center work hand in hand and have the added luxury of working door to door. This makes it easy for our surgeons and radiologists to collaborate and consult with each other at any given time. Often, if a patient has a finding highly concerning for a malignancy, they will be taken next door for a consultation and biopsy by a breast surgeon that same day. This unique set up gives our patients the advantage of meeting their surgeon well before a diagnosis is made and reduces the added stress of waiting for a biopsy appointment.

Hunterdon Women’s Imaging Center is accredited by the American College of Radiology as a nationally-approved mammography and ultrasound center. All of our diagnostic testing is performed with the most advanced, state-of-the-art technology in a relaxing spa-like atmosphere.

Talk about breast cancer prevention and early detection through educational offerings and cancer screenings.

The best way to prevent breast cancer is to reduce the risk factors that we can control, for example, being overweight, lack of exercise, and alcohol consumption. Research shows that exercising four to seven hours a week lowers the risk of breast cancer by 15 percent.  In contrast, having more than three alcoholic beverages in a week increases the risk of breast cancer by 15 percent. By making small, empowering lifestyle modifications, women can decrease their risk of breast cancer.

Our most powerful tool for early detection of breast cancer is consistent yearly breast screening with mammogram. Annual mammograms can detect changes in the breast up to two years before a patient or doctor can feel them. Early detection prevents the need for extensive treatment for more advanced cancer and improves the chances of breast conservation and survival. Here at HRBCP we continue to follow the current guidelines from the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging, which is for women to receive annual mammograms starting at age 40.

As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of the community, Hunterdon Medical Center offers our expert clinicians to come and speak to your group, business, school, synagogue, church, or organization on a variety of cancer-related topics. This free service is designed to educate the community on early detection and cancer screening programs as well as information on how individuals can make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

In what ways do you integrate holistic modalities within your treatment?

I recognize that breast cancer is a disease that affects much more than the mere biology of a human being, but the very fiber, psyche, and self image of a person. I believe in treating the patient as a whole on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. I embrace the integration of holistic modalities with traditional Western medicine to do so. I work closely with the Hunterdon Integrative Medicine Program which offers acupuncture, massage, Reiki energy work, aromatherapy, and integrative nutrition among other services.  We are currently working together to assemble programs specifically for breast cancer patients and strategizing how to make these services more accessible to patients whose health care benefits may not cover them. I strongly believe that holistic treatments should be integrated into every patient’s treatment plan to reduce the stress and anxiety of this difficult time in a woman’s life, and I am working to make that a reality for my patients.