October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Lee Health experts want to tell you a little bit about the importance of early detection. About one in eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point, says the National Cancer Institute.
The good news? Most women survive breast cancer if it is found and treated early. Here’s what you need to know:
Screening and Early Diagnosis Can Beat the Disease
Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who do not have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease earlier than if you’d waited for symptoms to start.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, when breast cancer is detected early and hasn’t spread to anywhere else in the body, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99 percent.
“That’s why being proactive about your health through early detection is so important,” says Dr. Bianca Ferrari, a hematologist-oncologist with Lee Physician Group and the Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic at the Regional Cancer Center. “A lot of the good survival rate numbers have to do with increasing discussion, awareness, and early prevention.”
Lee Health Breast Health Centers
Did you know? Lee Health operates three Breast Health Centers that use a variety of breast examinations to get the most accurate diagnosis possible at convenient locations, says Diana McEnerney, director of Lee Health Outpatient Breast Health Imaging.
“We give our patients peace of mind with innovative technology, board-certified physicians who specialize in breast health, and technologists certified in mammography and breast ultrasound,” McEnerney says. “Our Breast Health Centers are accredited as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. and the only breast center in Lee County to have achieved accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.”
Self-exams and Mammograms
Screening and early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. Women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel. They should immediately report any changes to their doctor.
“It’s important that women of all ages regularly perform their own breast exams,” McEnerney says. “While administering your own breast exam, you may discover a new lump earlier than when your annual mammography may be due. If so, you should follow up with your health care provider as soon as possible.”
The American Cancer Society recommends annual screening mammograms for women starting at age 40 and continuing as long as they are in good health. But your doctor might want you to have a screening earlier if you have a mother or sister with breast cancer.
Make a mammogram part of your yearly health checkup because it will also reveal what type of density your breast tissue is, allowing more tests such as MRI or ultrasound, McEnerney says.
Takeaway: Mammograms are essential, important, and potentially life-saving. Talk with your doctor about when to start mammography screening sooner than later.
Get the latest information and more details about mammograms here.
If Breast Cancer Strikes: Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic Offers Help and Hope
A breast cancer diagnosis leaves you with questions, decisions, and anxiety. The Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic at the Regional Cancer Center helps newly diagnosed breast cancer patients or patients looking for a second opinion for their treatment options. Patients can be referred by their physician or they can contact a breast cancer navigator for a self-referral.
Dr. Ferrari says clinic assessments give patients what they need to help them make informed decisions about their treatment.
“Many recent advances in the diagnoses and treatment of breast cancer require close collaboration between cancer specialists, who have different areas of expertise,” Dr. Ferrari explains. “The clinic brings these specialists together to meet with and evaluate each patient’s case.”
A medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and surgeon as well as a medical team together evaluate each person’s case, engaging them and their family in the treatment plan.
“Typically, this kind of process might take weeks to develop — but we have all the experts in one place,” says Dr. Ferrari. “Local women (and men) have everything they need for screening, diagnosis and fighting breast cancer right here, close to home, at the Regional Cancer Center. That means the plan is complete in a single day, and your treatment begins quickly.”
What Can You Expect On Your Visit?
Patients receive support and assistance navigating the health system through our breast cancer nurse navigators.
The Regional Cancer Center’s breast cancer navigators are oncology certified nurses who work with patients, families, and physicians to help the cancer patient “navigate” the health care system from diagnosis through treatment.
You will meet the medical oncologist, surgeon, and radiation oncologist. Each doctor will talk to you one-on-one, complete an assessment, discuss treatment choices, and answer all your questions.
The medical team will discuss your case. The physicians — along with the breast cancer nurse navigator, pathologist, radiologist, genetic counselor, clinical oncology pharmacist, and when necessary, a plastic surgeon — evaluate your tests and health history. Using National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, they will put together your personal plan of care.
The nurse navigator will discuss the plan with you and then help schedule all your appointments.
Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic: Team Members and Support Services
Get to know our team! Here is a rundown of the different kinds of friendly staff members you’ll find.
Cancer Nurse Navigators
Our cancer navigators are certified nurses who will help you and your family understand your diagnosis and provide encouragement and education. They will be there when you feel overwhelmed by coordinating appointments, explaining your treatment, and connecting you with services.
These skilled professionals prepare and dispense chemotherapy treatment, and provide key medication and counseling.
The Regional Cancer Center employs licensed clinical medical social worker for individual and group counseling, so you never have to feel alone.
Nutrition / Dietitian & Nutrition Seminars
Regular workshops and seminars provide the most up-to-date information on how diet and nutrition can help during treatment. Learn how to shop, what to buy, how to cook, and other important details to take the guesswork out of your diet.
The Regional Cancer Center’s oncology dietitians teach you about healthy, nourishing meals and guide you through problems with appetite, weight loss, malnutrition, pain, and supplements.
Recent advances show that certain genes can put individuals at risk for cancer. One of our genetic counselors can dive into your history and help you and your family understand their risk, provide information, and perform a screening. The Regional Cancer Center offers counseling for breast cancer, gynecological cancers, skin cancers, and many other conditions.
Breast cancer rehabilitation is like other forms of rehabilitation patients might receive after suffering a serious illness or an injury. Our cancer navigators guide patients through exercises for flexibility and stamina to minimize side effects, lower the risk of readmission, and help patients return to normal lives.
Monthly support groups give patients and families a place to talk as well as provide facts and advice on diagnoses, treatments, ways to manage side effects/complications of treatment, as well as emotional support.
Our survivorship specialists will help you regain control of your health and life after cancer treatment. Follow-up care includes nutrition, exercise plans, wellness tips, and other essential tools as you ease back into a regular routine.
Onsite Mastectomy Prosthetic-certified Fitters
Our compassionate experts provide you with instruction and training on how to wear post-mastectomy devices. They will measure, fit, and adjust any related supplies and answer all your questions.
Acupuncture, yoga, hypnotherapy, massage, and aroma therapy help soothe your mind, body, and spirit against the side effects of treatment. Repair, restore, regenerate, and rebuild with these services.
Cookie’s Place Boutique
Cookie’s Place Boutique assists patients, caregivers, family members, and friends find just what they need, from wigs to breast forms to that special gift. This healing boutique also offers massage therapies, essential oils, yoga, and gentle exercise classes.
Meditation Center for Patients
Our meditation classes will calm your body, mind, and spirit and inspire you to heal.
Healing Garden and Outdoor Labyrinth
Our beautifully landscaped Sidney and Berne Davis Healing Garden reminds our patients and their families that life is a journey, and reflection helps focus the mind and recharge.
Transition to Hospice
When effective cancer therapy is no longer an option, patients will have access to optimal palliative care and counseling with respect to end-of-life issues.
For more information about the Regional Cancer Center Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic, the breast cancer nurse navigators or to schedule an appointment, call 239-343-9546.