Physician Spotlight: Meet Chad Harston, MD, with Lexington Clinic Center for Breast Care.

 

Dr. Chad Harston

FAST FACTS

Hometown: Born in Texas. Also, lived in Guam, Finland and Utah.

Family: Wife and four children.

Hobbies: Mountain climbing and travel.

Motto: “Eat like there IS a tomorrow.”

Recommended Books: “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman MD (Little, Brown and Company, January 2011)

Education:

Undergraduate at Brigham Young University; graduated summa Cum Laude. Valedictory speaker.

Medical School at Baylor College of Medicine

Internship and Residency with the US Air Force and Army at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium. Served one tour of duty in Iraq. Honorable discharge from the USAF in 2011 as a Major. Awarded the Meritorious service medal.

Women’s Imaging Fellowship at Harvard Medical School with Brigham and Women’s Hospital

 

Medical News: Why did you become a doctor? 

Chad Harston: Achieving optimal health is one of my highest personal priorities and I enjoy helping others achieve and maintain good health.

MN: Why did you choose this specialty?

CH: I spent about 13 years in the U.S. Air Force. As I was finishing my general radiology training, the Air Force recognized that they needed someone with sub-specialty training in women’s imaging to serve active duty and retired women. They gave me the option of leaving the military for a year to do additional training in this field. I took advantage of the opportunity to pursue a year of sub-specialty training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

MN: Is it different than what you thought? How? 

CH: I entered the field of women’s imaging believing that early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Now, years later after looking at hundreds of thousands of mammograms and seeing thousands of breast cancers, that belief has been reaffirmed more times than I can count. Indeed, as our technology continues to improve radiologists are becoming more and more effective at finding breast cancer while it is small and curable. Of course, it won’t do any good if women choose not to be screened.

MN: What is the biggest misconception about your field? 

CH: I am saddened that the United States Preventive Services Task Force has misinterpreted old data and made recommendations for screening mammograms that emphasize reducing anxiety instead of saving the maximum number of lives possible. These recommendations are directly or indirectly responsible for more women delaying breast cancer screening until a later age or choosing to skip years in between their screening exams. I believe this has allowed cancers to progress longer and led to unnecessarily aggressive treatments and deaths.

MN: Tell us about the Tomosynthesis/3D and contrast enhanced exams going on through the Center for Breast Care in central Kentucky.

CH: Tomosynthesis (also known as 3D mammography) takes a series of low-dose images while rotating around the breast. The computer processes the data and displays the breast tissue in virtual “slices.” The data can also be used to create a 2-D image of the breast for comparison with older mammograms. This gives the doctor the ability to examine the breast tissue in greater detail without increasing radiation.

For decades we have been using flat radiographs to look for breast cancer. The main problem with using 2-D mammograms to examine a 3-D structure is that some cancers are hidden by overlapping normal tissue. Tomosynthesis solves this problem by displaying the breast tissue in very thin slices. This allows us to see tumors that might have been obscured in the past. Tomosynthesis also reduces the need to call back some women for additional imaging to clear up false shadows caused by overlapping tissue and other non-cancerous findings.

Contrast-enhanced mammography is a promising new test that has many of the advantages of breast MRI including high sensitivity for cancer and a lower rate of false positive results. It is less expensive than breast MRI and takes less time. This procedure uses an IV contrast injection to detect cancer similar to contrast-enhanced MRI and CT scans. Lexington Clinic is the first in Central Kentucky to offer contrast-enhanced mammography.

Women who will benefit the most from contrast-enhanced mammography are those who have dense breast tissue and those with a family history or personal history of breast cancer. Next to MRI this is the most sensitive test available for detection of breast cancer because tumors light up like a light bulb while normal glandular tissue is darkened.

MN: What is the one thing you wish patients knew and/or understood about doctors?

CH: Compared with 50 or 100 years ago doctors no longer have as much control over how they practice medicine. I think this is part of the reason that they don’t spend more of their time teaching patients how to prevent and treat chronic diseases with a healthy lifestyle. I wish patients would take full responsibility for their own health early in life and stop thinking that the medical system will save them later. Exercising daily and eating a healthful diet of foods mostly from the produce section of the supermarket will be more effective than pills, shots and surgeries.

What is your opinion of managed care and how will this affect you and your practice? 

It is better to give patients freedom to choose their own doctors rather than forcing them to stay within a tightly controlled network.

What’s one thing your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you? 

The best way to prevent chronic disease is with a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, I try to exercise five to six days per week. I eat a plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. I do not eat meat, dairy or eggs and I try to avoid foods with added sugar. I also abstain from alcohol and tobacco.

If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be?

I can’t think of any better career.

Who are your heroes in healthcare?

Caldwell Esselstyn MD, Neal Barnard MD, Joel Fuhrman MD, Dean Ornish MD, T. Colin Campbell PhD, Jeff Novick

What’s the last good book you read?

I would strongly recommend these books:

“Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman MD

“The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell PhD

“The Spectrum” by Dean Ornish

“Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD

“Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease” by Robert Lustig, MD

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

Favorite daytime beverage?

Water

 

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