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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 25, 2023

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize the need for early detection for one of the most common types of cancer in women in the United States.

Bonni Guerin, MD a hematologist/oncologist and director of the Breast Cancer Treatment and Prevention Program at Overlook Medical Center with Atlantic Health System, joins a Community Conversation to discuss the importance of mammograms and breast health.


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Bonni Guerin, MD, discusses the importance of scheduling a mammogram.

Why is it important to develop a relationship with a primary care doctor?

Having a relationship allows you and your primary care doctor to develop a personal health care plan and facilitates continuity of care if you get sick and need medical attention. Your doctor will be familiar with your screenings, tests and overall medical condition.

What qualities should people look for in a primary care doctor?

“You want to find someone that you can communicate with, that you resonate with,” says Dr. Bulan. She noted that there’s a wealth of choices from the many different clinicians that are part of Atlantic Health System. People often find a doctor through a referral from a friend or a family member. Dr. Bulan pointed to the Find a Doctor tool on the Atlantic Health website as a good place to start. She also said that all of your electronic medical records will follow you throughout Atlantic Health to optimize your relationship with your care team and to allow for integrative, quality care.

What happens at an annual health checkup?

Dr. Bulan says annual checkups are usually centered around screening and preventive care. Your doctor will likely review your health history and note any changes in your overall condition in the past year. Then, your vitals are checked, and you will be given a physical exam. Finally, you and your doctor will talk about any preventive screenings and vaccinations you may need, and the doctor will answer any questions you may have. Dr. Bulan adds that you may need more than one checkup a year based on your personal health history and medical condition.

She also recommends completing a Preventative Care survey offered by Atlantic Health System. The results provide information to discuss with your doctor based on your age, health history, and risk factors, including family health history.

Why is family health history important?

“Family history gives you a picture of your past that helps predict what we need to know for the future,” explains Dr. Bulan. Family health history generally includes first degree relatives: your parents, grandparents, and siblings. Dr. Bulan notes that in addition to information about your personal health history, medical conditions and surgeries, family history gives doctors insight on what you may need to stay healthy, including screenings, vaccinations and other health care interventions.

Is blood work part of an annual physical?

Blood work can be part of the annual wellness checkup for adults, but not always, according to Dr. Bulan. She says it depends on your personal health history and health risk for certain conditions and adds that the most common blood test is for cholesterol levels.

At what age should you start to get annual health checkups?

Dr. Bulan recommends starting annual health checkups when you are young, regardless of your health or family history. Starting young allows you to develop a strong and lasting relationship with your doctor and enables you to access preventative care and vaccinations.

How can you make the best use of your time with your doctor?

“I think you want to prepare for your visit just like you would prepare for an interview,” says Dr. Bulan. You should reflect on your health over the past year and note any changes that occurred, so you are ready to communicate that information to your doctor. You should ask questions about potential screenings and vaccinations and express any concerns you have about your overall wellness. Finally, Dr. Bulan says that patients will leave the visit with a summary of their vital signs and health recommendations to review. She mentions MyChart as a useful tool for patients and doctors to keep track of the results of your annual visit.

Why would a primary care doctor recommend a follow-up visit with a specialist?

Dr. Bulan says that sometimes a visit with your doctor reveals information, such as elevated blood pressure, that may require additional tests and screenings, or a follow-up visit with a specialist. She says this proactive, preventative approach to health care is exactly what an annual checkup is designed to do.

What are electronic medical records?

Electronic medical records follow a patient throughout their experience at Atlantic Health System and enable doctors across specialties and facilities to access your health care history. For example, your electronic medical records include information on your allergies, vaccinations, screenings, past surgeries and medications. You can access this information through the MyChart app on a mobile device.

  • Cancer Care
  • Women's Health