Dr. Laura Lawson grew up in Charleston, West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia University. After earning her medical degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine she performed her residency in General Surgery and a fellowship in Breast Surgical Oncology at Vanderbilt. She practiced four years at the Nashville Breast Center before co-founding Tennessee Breast Specialists with Drs. Dunbar and Furman.
“Being a breast surgeon allows me to combine the technical aspects of surgery with a love of patient care and a focus on women’s health. Being female and a mother helps me establish a special bond with my patients. I understand how breast cancer can affect women in all of their roles of life. As a breast surgeon, I feel privileged to help women through a difficult time in their lives.”
Laura’s husband, who she met during her residency program, practices Pulmonary/Critical Care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and at the VA Hospital. In her spare time she enjoys skiing, running, reading, watching HGTV and traveling, although all of those are a little more difficult to do with 2 small red-headed boys, Wade and Luke. Laura is a Co-Medical Director of the Saint Thomas Health Services Breast Cancer Program. She is active in Tennessee Women in Medicine and enjoys helping with various breast cancer awareness activities in the community.
Q: At what age should I start doing self breast exams?
A: For women who are at average risk of developing breast cancer (no close relatives who have had breast cancer) it is usually recommended that they start breast self exams at age 18. For young women especially the goal is not only to locate a mass, but more to increase awareness of the feel of their normal breast tissue, so that any changes may be detected. The best time to perform BSE is whatever time during the menstrual cycle the breasts are the least tender-usually soon after starting a period. For some women it may be easier to remember to perform BSE on the same date each month. It is also recommended that women begin having a breast exam by their health care provider every 2-3 years from ages 20 to 40, and then yearly.
Q: My doctor said I have fibrocystic breasts. What does this mean and is it serious?
A:Fibrocystic condition or fibrocystic changes (FCC) are a normal response to the effects of hormones on the breast tissue and do not represent a disease. FCC describe a common benign (non-cancerous) breast condition which may include symptoms such as breast lumpiness, tenderness or pain, and possibly nipple discharge. FCC does not increase the risk of breast cancer, but some of the changes associated with FCC can lead to increased imaging (mammogram and ultrasound) and may make it more difficult to identify early breast cancers.
Q: I feel a lump in my breast that wasn’t there before. What should I do?
A:If a woman feels a new lump in her breast, the first thing is to not panic. There are many benign causes of breast masses. If a mass persists through a menstrual cycle, the woman should contact her health care provider for a clinical examination. Frequently after this, she will have age-appropriate imaging. Usually the imaging will include first a mammogram and then an US. Sometimes MRI can be used to better visualize the breast tissue as well. If a fluid filled cyst is found, usually this can be followed, or the fluid aspirated if it is large and/or tender. If a solid mass is found, this will usually require a biopsy. The majority of biopsies are done as office procedures and use either mammography or ultrasound to guide the procedure. Only a small number of women will need to go to the operating room for a biopsy. The results are usually available within a few days.