Meet Our Doctors: Veronica Jones Is Pushing the Limits of Breast Cancer Treatment
May 4, 2017 | by Samantha Bonar
Veronica Jones, M.D., who specializes in breast cancer surgery.
“I had a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease, and I saw the toll it took on my family to take care of him,” explained Jones, who is also an assistant clinical professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology within Department of Surgery. “I decided that I wanted to help people in a vulnerable time. And not only the patients, but their family members who are going through this process with them.”
However, instead of going into neurology (as one might expect from her grandfather’s diagnosis), Jones chose surgical oncology because “I was passionate about women’s health.” She originally considered studying obstetrics and gynecology, “but I became fascinated with surgery. So I decided to become a breast cancer surgeon because I get to impact women’s health and also enter a woman’s life at an extremely vulnerable time.”
Jones joined City of Hope in 2015 after serving as an assistant professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. She graduated with honors from Stanford University and received her medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She completed her internship and residency at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. She also studied HIV/AIDS and reproductive health during a clerkship in Kenya. Along the way, she picked up a variety of awards, from "Chief Resident of the Year" to "Best Surgical Oncology Paper."
In addition to her work as a surgeon, Jones writes extensively – and has focused her research – on health disparities in underserved populations, as well as new technologies in breast cancer care. She also is involved in community outreach and promoting healthy living for women, as well as cancer prevention and detection. She splits her time equally between treating patients and doing research.
“I’m interested in finding treatments for patients with aggressive cancers,” she said. “I’m looking at ways to better utilize imaging to try to pick up on aggressive cancers and then to link that imaging with treatment.”
Her other major research focus is trying to figure out how to promote healthy living in breast cancer survivors, especially through weight management.
“A lot of breast cancer survivors gain weight because of the treatment,” which can often include anti-estrogen medications, she explained. “Whereas if they lost weight it would reduce their risk of recurrence by 50 percent.”
As a breast cancer expert, she is most interested in cases that fall in the “extremes of age.”
“I like taking care of the very young patient with breast cancer or the very old patient with breast cancer and trying to find out what best meets their needs, because a lot of the time they don’t fall into a typical treatment regimen,” she said. “You have to take into consideration their reproductive concerns, social concerns and other medical issues.”
Jones says she has seen big changes in breast cancer treatment since she arrived at City of Hope two years ago.
“One big change was the mammogram guidelines change that happened last year, where women were advised to get mammograms later and not as often,” she said. “And then there’s constant changes in the treatments and medicines that are available. There are tons of clinical trials going on at City of Hope. Even the way we treat lymph nodes or how we do reconstruction is very different from when I started. We can remove fewer lymph nodes. We can preserve more of the breast. We’re getting more tailored in our treatments all around.”
Originally from Los Angeles, Jones, a mother of two toddlers, says City of Hope’s reputation drew her to the institution.
“I just fell in love with the people here, how passionate they are about fighting cancer. That’s our whole focus,” she said. “People here are always thinking about how to push the limits and go beyond what is accepted and known about cancer, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
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