|Observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month …
RMC’s Breast Health Center is Life-saving Community Resource
The Regional Medical Center’s Breast Health Center staff is waging war on breast cancer and reminds the community that October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and mammography is still the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer. Equipped with state-of–the-art digital mammography units, RMC has invested much in our community’s health by providing the best equipment coupled with skilled, compassionate staff.
All throughout the year the Breast Health Center’s staff is very active in sharing the message about breast cancer awareness and the importance of early detection.
Breast cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, and one out of every eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime. Still, if caught early, most breast cancers are treatable and have a low incidence of recurrence; therefore, the RMC staff encourages all area women to take advantage of this life-saving community resource – RMC’s Breast Health Center.
“Regional Medical Center has provided women, and in some cases, men, a comprehensive Breast Health Center right in their community to receive the quality care they deserve,” noted Medical Director Dallas Lovelace, M.D. “The digital equipment at our facility is state-of-the-art. Three key factors in contributing to women’s breast health are monthly self-breast exams, yearly clinical exams by a physician and mammography. A baseline mammogram is recommended at age 35, and yearly mammograms beginning at age 40; however, if someone has a family history of breast cancer or is considered a high risk, the guidelines may vary. Monthly self-exams are very important so that women really know their breasts and will notice any changes immediately.”
One of the Breast Health Center’s biggest advantages is digital mammography; Lead Mammographer Becky Hejl reiterated that mammography is still the gold standard for diagnosing breast cancer. “It’s a documented fact that mammography saves lives,” commented Hejl. “According to the New England Journal of Medicine, digital mammography provides better images, particularly for women who have dense breasts. When comparing the analog images of the previous generation of mammography units with today’s state-of–the-art digital images, it is truly amazing how much sharper and more precise the images are. Digital is the only way to go!”
“We are proud to have been the first area hospital to feature digital mammography several years ago and have added a second digital unit – quite an investment in our community’s health.”
— Becky Hejl
“We are proud to have been the first area hospital to feature digital mammography several years ago and have added a second digital unit – quite an investment in our community’s health,” explained Hejl.
Junior Service League of Orangeburg Visits Center
To jump-start this fall’s awareness campaign, members of the Junior Service League of Orangeburg visited the Regional Medical Center’s Breast Health Center recently to learn about the latest statistics on breast cancer and the importance of early detection and to tour the facility. Focusing on the digital mammography equipment and viewing digital images, the group also had the option to schedule and have a digital mammogram that evening, and several did.
Some months before, Junior Service League’s Social Committee was brainstorming ideas, and it was mentioned that some League members had a fear of getting a mammogram. After further discussion, the League decided to pursue a partnership with the Regional Medical Center to help encourage their members to learn about the importance of early detection through mammography and what to expect when having a mammogram. Nikki Hughes, immediate past president; spearheaded the effort since she was already representing the League on the RMC Foundation’s Pink Ribbon Committee (a special event to benefit breast cancer programs at the Regional Medical Center) and was well aware of the capabilities of the Breast Health Center.
“Serving on the committee with Becky (Hejl) was a great opportunity to follow up on this idea,” Hughes noted. “Becky and I discussed it, the plan evolved, and with assistance from Emily Dyches, our Social Committee chairman, we scheduled a program and a tour of the Breast Health Center. A few weeks after planning began, League’s current president, Rebekkah Brailsford, was diagnosed with breast cancer. That reinforced our interest in sharing with our members about the importance of early detection, and a partnership with RMC’s Breast Heath Center seemed like a perfect fit since the League also is the presenting sponsor for the Pink Ribbon event for the fourth consecutive year,” she explained.
Brailsford, only 29 when diagnosed with breast cancer, has become a voice for advocating the importance of early detection. “I know first hand that women must protect themselves by having regular check ups and age appropriate mammograms, in fact, we support a change in guidelines to lower the recommended age for a baseline. With more and more younger women being diagnosed with breast cancer, maybe it’s time that the guidelines need to be re-evaluated. Breast cancer knows no age. If we can make a difference for one woman – that will be a proud moment for us!” she said.
“Breast cancer knows no age. If we can make a difference for one woman – that will be a proud moment for us!”
— Rebekkah Brailsford
“The Breast Health Center’s environment immediately puts patients at ease,” said Rosie Poston, interim director at RMC’s Breast Health Center. “Having a mammogram can be a stressful experience, especially if it is her first one; many women procrastinate in making an appointment due to fear of the unknown. So we try to do everything possible to make our patients as comfortable as possible.”
Located in RMC’s Annex building, the 6,200-square-foot Breast Health Center has a convenient entrance with private parking and features soothing colored walls, original artwork, and a philosophy of caring for a patient’s mind, body and soul.
Digital technology can detect smaller lesions in dense breast tissue that previous systems may have missed, all while exposing the patient to less radiation than was required with conventional mammography. Patients with dense breasts require digital mammography. With digital mammography, there is no film to develop. Clearer, more precise images are ready to view within seconds. Because the quality of the image can be evaluated immediately, patients are less likely to be called back to have the procedure repeated — a vast improvement for any woman who has ever spent anxiety-filled days waiting for answers.
Digital mammography isn’t the only diagnostic tool clinicians at the Breast Health Center have onsite. Committed to a platform of comprehensive women’s health, if a breast abnormality is detected in an area that can be difficult to study with a mammogram, patients will receive further examination with ultrasound. A breast ultrasound is a procedure that uses reflected sound waves to view and produce a picture of the internal structures of the breast. Often it is used to determine whether the lump is a benign cyst or a more-suspect solid mass. Another new and increasingly useful modality is breast MRI, which may be used in special cases.
If, during these tests, clinicians detect a possible tumor, the Breast Health Center is equipped to perform minimally invasive, stereotactic biopsies onsite. With this procedure a special computer-guided needle is used to obtain a tissue sample from the area in question. “The procedure takes only a few minutes (less than 30) under local anesthesia, and the patient can resume normal activities the next day,” noted Dr. Lovelace.
Most importantly, the center’s capabilities allow patients to remain in the area, close to their homes and families during what can be a difficult, uncertain time. “We understand how hard it is to have to wait for test results that have the potential to turn your life upside down,” said Hejl. “The last thing you want is for someone to have to drive several hours with that on their mind.”
Boutique Offers Convenient Access to Prostheses and Accessories
To help women who are diagnosed with breast cancer adjust to life during and after their treatment, the Breast Health Center offers convenient access to a number of accessories that can make the treatment process easier and more comfortable. “The Boutique,” facilitated by the RMC Auxiliary through a $100,000 gift to establish it, carries a selection of skin care products, wigs and prostheses, such as breast forms, mastectomy bras and wigs for cancer patients and has a certified mastectomy fitter, Jean Browning, to assist with proper fit and balance. In addition the Boutique offers accessories including hats, scarves, jewelry, toiletries and other gift items.
For the past five years, the Regional Medical Center has been the recipient of a grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure -- Lowcountry Affiliate, and Hejl has spearheaded these efforts. Breast cancer was detected in three women who participated in this special grant program. The grant provides screening mammography and information about breast health for women aged 30-39 years, who have limited or no insurance and are residents of Orangeburg County. This past year 148 women participated in this grant-sponsored screening effort. Women aged 40-64 who meet these grant criteria would qualify for participation in the Best Chance Network.
Through the Komen grant, funding is provided for “Lunch and Learn” programs to educate our community about early detection of this disease called breast cancer. Fourteen educational sessions were conducted during the last fiscal year, and a number of these are scheduled throughout the end of this year. To learn more about the Breast Health Center, or to request an educational program for your group, call Hejl at 395-4700.
To schedule an appointment for a mammogram, please call the Breast Health Center at 395-2841.