The figures are alarming. Approximately one in eight women (about 12.4 percent) in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Men are also at risk of breast cancer but far less — only one in 1,000 men will develop this type of cancer. And, according to figures obtained from breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the most reliable and up-to-date information about breast cancer, the latest forecast for 2018 predicts 41,000 of those women are expected to die, even though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.
It is thought that the decrease is due because of advances in treatment, earlier detection through screening and increased awareness of the disease plus the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Recognizing the possible warning signs of cancer and taking prompt action leads to early diagnosis and that greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. The two major components of early detection are educating women to promote early diagnosis and regular screening. One example of screening to identify breast cancer in women who do not yet have any symptoms, is 3D mammography which offers greater precision, better quality and higher efficiency.
Oak Hill Hospital is at the forefront of 3D mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy, breast ultrasound (including ultrasound-guided breast biopsy) and is the first and only accredited ACR Breast Imaging Center of Excellence in Hernando County.
Cheryl Whitman is the board certified Patient Care Navigator at the Women’s Imaging Center and responsible for steering patients from early diagnosis, through treatment and survivorship. Whitman helps coordinate each patient’s care and is an advocate working with the entire team at the center to ensure the care is comprehensive and completed in a timely manner.
Oak Hill Hospital’s 3D mammography, sometimes called “tomosynthesis,” utilizes advanced breast mammography technology that’s clinically proven to significantly increase the detection of breast cancers thereby decreasing the number of women asked to return for additional testing.
“Our 3D mammography offers less radiation exposure and a comfort paddle system that reduces discomfort,” she explained. It’s important that women have a better understanding of how mammography is important for them based upon their age and other criteria,’ said Whitman.
Whitman added that Tomosynthesis takes multiple images and then the computer software compiles them into more detailed 3D renderings of the breast that provides the on-site radiologist at Oak Hill reviewing your images with more views and therefore greater accuracy. The imaging works in a similar way to conventional mammograms but, because it’s digital technology, enables the computer within the machine to provide 3D images.”
“The examination itself is very similar to a a conventional mammogram in that you stand in front of an x-ray machine and your breasts will be compressed, one at a time, between two plates,” she said. “The difference with a 3D mammogram is that the x-ray arm of the machine moves over the breast in an arc while taking multiple images of the breast from multiple different angles.”
“I, and my team, at the Women’s Imaging Center want to make every woman feel as comfortable as possible from the moment they arrive for their mammogram to the moment they leave,” she said. “It’s my personal goal to provide you with a positive, relaxing experience in a caring and comfortable environment.”
When arriving for an appointment, patients are asked to come 15 minutes earlier so they can register first. Then they’re escorted to a quiet, spacious and comfortably furnished waiting room with refreshments.
“We have wonderful volunteers who help guide patients to the changing rooms and security lockers where they can prepare for the exam,” she said. “When it’s time for the exam, an experienced, female technologist will take the patient to the examination room and conduct the mammogram.”
“Timewise, the entire appointment and examination only takes about 30 minutes to complete,” she said. “And women can return to their normal activities immediately afterwards.”
When the mammogram is completed, the computer images go to our team of on-site radiologists to review. Once reviewed, the results are sent to the patient’s primary care physician within 24 hours. Should a potential abnormality be discovered, it is immediately notified to Whitman and the patient’s physician.
“Time is of the essence if there is a positive result,” said Whitman. “I liaise with the patient and her physician to ensure the patient comes back for further tests or a biopsy within 14 days of the mammogram.”
All positive findings are sent to Oak Hill Hospital’s Breast Leadership Committee that makes sure the center meets the current standards in breast care. The committee also conducts concordance reviews to make sure each patient is receiving the best treatment possible.
“They go over the biopsy reports, the pathology and radiology — the whole process — so that the best possible treatment options have been made,” said Whitman.
As a Nurse Navigator, Cheryl Whitman will assist patients from diagnosis and throughout their treatment.
“We track every woman’s results including biopsies plus genetic and other tests, in a personalized folder that the patient keeps,” said Whitman. “The center has specialized software that’s like an electronic chart detailing what stage the cancer is at, the treatment, as well as how the patient is faring and a whole host of relevant and helpful information.
Whitman further explained that she is constantly in touch with each patient to talk about any worries they may be having.
“I go over every step of what the treatment is, what will happen and I also attend the patient on the day of her surgery, to help ease any anxieties,” she said.
Whitman also follows up on each patient once they have gone home. She calls patients after the first night home to make sure they’re comfortable or if a case manager or a home help nurse is required.
“I have an open door policy,” she said. It’s important to provide that support for them.” Being told you have breast cancer surgery can be overwhelming and have a profound effect on women. It’s the center’s commitment to provide a complete breast care program.
• Annual screenings covered by most insurances, Medicare and Medicaid.
• $95 self-pay rate for screening 3D mammograms
• $60 self-pay rate for screening 2D mammograms
• Prescription not required.
The Women’s Imaging Center also runs a breast cancer support group. It’s called “Afternoon Tea with the Ladies” and is to educate, empower and inspire newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and survivors.
The group meets every 2nd Tuesday of each month. Next meeting is June 12, 2018 at 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
To contact Cheryl Whitman, call 352.597.6130.
For more information and to schedule an appointment call toll free (800) 921-9158.