Dr. O’Neal making a splash for women with cancer
December 21, 2015

SwimaMile2.jpg New to the MonDak region, Dr. Kelly O’Neal is a general surgeon at Sidney Health Center who has a special interest in breast health. For twenty years she has participated in a fundraising event in Oakland, California known as “Swim a Mile for Women with Cancer.”

“I learned about the Women’s Cancer Resource Center from patients (in California) who told me about their experiences at the Center. When I noticed they were having a fundraiser that involved swimming, I was hooked,” explained Dr. O’Neal, who is an avid swimmer. In fact, she is the only participant who has never missed a year in the event.

For the twentieth anniversary, Dr. O’Neal was featured on the event poster promoting the Swim a Mile for Women with Cancer that takes place during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Originally, the event was fairly small. Over the years, it has continued to grow and expanded to two days in Oakland and Marin.

“It’s one of my favorite days of the year! I’m surrounded by family, friends, patients and colleagues who either swim or simply attend the event in support of a great cause,” stated Dr. O’Neal.

Proceeds from the Swim a Mile support the work of the Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC) in Oakland. The center creates opportunities for women with cancer to improve their quality of life through education, supportive services and practical assistance. The annual fundraising event ensures that the WCRC’s programs and services remain free for all who need them.

Dr. O’Neal has a passion for educating women about the importance of breast health and works collaboratively with the local resources available including Sidney Health Center’s radiology, surgery and the Cancer Care Center. Although Dr. O’Neal is a general surgeon, it’s not uncommon for her to take some time in an office visit to reiterate the importance of clinical breast exams and routine mammograms.

In the fall of 2013, Sidney Health Center upgraded its mammography service with the latest screening and diagnostic technology available to a 3D Mammogram system from Hologic. The Selenia Dimensions mammography system offers exceptionally sharp breast images, an advanced ergonomic design providing more patient comfort, and the groundbreaking tomosynthesis platform designed to deliver superior screening and diagnostic performance.

Breast tomosynthesis produces a three-dimensional view of the breast tissue that helps radiologists identify and characterize individual breast structures without the confusion of overlapping tissue. In fact, breast cancer screening with tomosynthesis has a higher cancer detection rate than conventional 2D mammography alone. Tomosynthesis technology gives radiologist increased confidence with a significant reduction in recall rates.

In addition, Dr. O’Neal works closely with Dr. Leszek Jaszczak, diagnostic radiologist at Sidney Health Center. Dr. Jaszczak has nearly 20 years of experience in radiology and continues to keep abreast in the latest imaging services including mammographic, magnetic resonance and computed tomography. He plays an important role in women’s breast health through diagnostic radiology exams, mammogram readings and ultrasound biopsies.

“I encourage all women to do regular self-exams, get clinical breast exams, and screening mammograms,” stresses Dr. O’Neal. “For women at an unusually high risk, like those who have a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, it’s essential that they get evaluated and set-up a treatment plan.”

According to the CDC, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women other than skin cancer. Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every one to two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your medical provider about when to start and how often to get a screening. Keeping in mind, those individuals with an exceptional risk should start screening even younger than the recommended age range.

“If someone finds a lump during a self-breast exam or has an abnormal mammogram, I encourage them to follow up with their medical provider as soon as possible. There are so many new developments in evaluation and care. The situation is not hopeless,” reiterated Dr. O’Neal. “There are so many wonderful people right here in Sidney working to go out of their way to make the patients feel safe and well-cared for throughout their experience.”

“Dr. O’Neal is a tremendous asset to Sidney Health Center, especially in the area of breast cancer management.  It has been a pleasure working with her, collaborating on the best approach for the surgical and radiation management of patients with breast malignancies,” stated Dr. Lyle Harrison, Sidney Health Center radiation oncologist. “As a woman, I believe she has a deeper understanding of the implications of being told you have breast cancer, and that is reflected in the exceptional level of care that she provides to her patients.”

Sidney Health Center outpatient cancer care services are centralized in one convenient location enhancing and streamlining patient care for those going through treatment. The Cancer Care Center features four chemotherapy and IV therapy infusion rooms with a centralized nursing station as well as state-of-the-art radiation therapy treatment.

The first of its kind in Montana, Sidney Health Center installed a TomoTherapy Hi-Art radiation treatment system, which is one of the most advanced cancer treatment systems in the area. Unlike traditional radiation therapy equipment, the TomoTherapy system combines CT scan imaging with treatment delivery, ensuring the most accurate radiation treatment with the fewest side effects and a higher quality of life.

Another unique quality of TomoTherapy is that it can treat multiple tumors at once as well as complex tumor shapes. In short, it offers the most sophisticated form of IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) with the greatest precision, the fewest side effects to normal tissues, and ultimately, the best outcomes.

Dr. O’Neal is American Board Certified in General Surgery and has been providing general surgery services to residents living in the MonDak region since April of this year. Dr. O’Neal has over 20 years of experience in general surgery, practicing at Kaiser Oakland Medical Center in California. She does a wide range of cases with a special interest in breast cases and advanced laparoscopy. Her practice is located in the General Surgery Clinic at Sidney Health Center, Suite 105 with Dr. Edward Bergin.