The news on the breast cancer front is encouraging: Early detection and improvements in treatment have led to a significant decrease in mortality rates over the past 30 years. But the keyword is “early.”
Lisa Bash, MD, medical director of the Breast Center at Chilton Medical Center, is quick to tell women that one of the most important things they can do is have a screening mammogram each year starting at age 40. She advises younger women to have a conversation with their physician about their breast cancer risk, beginning at age 30.
Technology Meets TLC
Leading the way in breast health, the Breast Center at Chilton Medical Center has been designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. The center is led by a team of dedicated breast radiologists, and is staffed by dually trained technologists who can perform mammography and ultrasound in a single visit.
And with extensive renovations now complete, the Breast Center offers patients a relaxing experience. That means spalike amenities, including plush robes, complimentary tea and coffee, and a private lounge area. Everything from the designer colors to the artwork on the wall says “Relax.”
“A big part of what makes our center special is that we have all the technology you would find at a major medical center, but the care comes with a little extra TLC,” says Dr. Bash. “I hear over and over again from patients that they came in apprehensive, but that all of the women here – the staff and the doctors – were so kind and helpful that it made their experience much less stressful.”
On the technology side, the Breast Center leads the way in breast imaging, including the use of digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), or 3-D mammography, which allows for smaller tumors to be detected at a much earlier stage. Just as reassuring, DBT screening decreases the number of patient callbacks due to false-positive readings.
For women with abnormal findings requiring biopsy, the Breast Center at Chilton Medical Center is one of the first in the area to utilize the Hologic Brevera® biopsy device. This advanced technology, along with the brand-new, 3-D stereotactic biopsy table, allows doctors to quickly pinpoint abnormalities in breast tissue, reducing procedure time by half and dramatically decreasing the number of samples required. If surgical intervention is warranted, patients have access to breast surgeon Margaret Sacco, MD, who is also located within the center. In addition, women have access to new advances in breast cancer surgery and reconstruction, including hidden scar surgery and muscle-sparing DIEP flap reconstruction, both of which require special training.
Helping Women Stay a Step Ahead
To help women stay ahead of what can be a treatable disease if found early, the Breast Center offers a High-Risk Breast Screening Program. Patients are provided an iPad to answer questions about their personal and family medical history. The information is then used to generate a lifetime risk score. For those women found to have an elevated lifetime risk, the Breast Cancer Surveillance and Prevention Program offers women access to genetic testing, advanced screenings (such as contrast-enhanced breast MRI) and other interventions – including working with a nutritionist to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Yet, Dr. Bash and her team know that all the comprehensive care in the world can still come up lacking without a healthy dose of compassion. “Everyone who works here is passionate about what we do, and it shows in the way we care for our patients,” says Dr. Bash. “We believe in what we do. When we find a small cancer early, we can save a woman’s life.”
Chilton Medical Center received a $2.2 million bequest from the late Sonia Neill to benefit enhancements for the Chilton Collins Pavilion, which houses the medical center’s Cancer Center and Breast Center. The gift, both extraordinary and unexpected, speaks volumes about this thoughtful, compassionate visionary who valued the importance of community health care.