Breast Cancer Awareness Month under way

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— Something old, someone new, something purchased, something pink. Okay, it doesn't rhyme, but it does sum up Breast Cancer Awareness Month at Yampa Valley Medical Center this October.

"Something old" is the American Cancer Society's longstanding recommendation for women age 40 and older to have an annual mammogram. Testing should begin at a younger age for women who have a family history of breast cancer.

We'll skip out of order to explain that the "something purchased" is special padding that improves the mammography experience at YVMC.

"Women who had their mammograms last October will notice the difference," Diagnostic Imaging Director Mary Jo Wiedel said. "We tried out the pads, then surveyed our patients. They said the exams felt much warmer and more comfortable, so we purchased the pads."

"Something pink" is a nice little gift that awaits every woman who has a mammogram in October - a pink rose donated by Safeway Floral. There also will be a weekly drawing with prizes purchased from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Finally, "someone new" is Julie Isaacs, who is YVMC's first Women's Imaging Coordinator. Isaacs isn't new to the hospital; she has been performing mammography and bone density scans here for more than 10 years. But she does have recently-expanded responsibilities.

"I will assist patients, physicians and referring agencies with breast imaging exams - even those such as breast magnetic resonance imaging that are not available at YVMC," Isaacs said. "I want to alleviate as much frustration and fear as I can."

Dr. J. D. Gilliland, board-certified radiologist at YVMC, said breast MRI is one service that is not yet available at the hospital.

"Mammography is still the standard breast imaging modality, since there is extensive clinical data and a long period of surveillance follow-up," Gilliland said. "As a general rule, breast MRI should be used only after high-quality mammography and ultrasound have been carried out.

"Imaging centers that perform a sufficiently high number of breast MRI exams are recommended. Results should be interpreted by a radiologist with expertise in breast MRI," he added. "Clearly, some of our patients will benefit from breast MRI, and Julie Isaacs can facilitate the arrangements for an appointment at one of the major Colorado breast imaging and treatment facilities."

For Isaacs, the timing couldn't be better. "I have just finished my second term as president of the Colorado Mammography Society," she said. "I've met many of my peers throughout the state who can perform those specialty exams and procedures."

Department director Wiedel established the new position after she personally helped a patient who had been recommended for a breast MRI.

"I spoke to her and explained that we don't do breast MRI at this time. I asked if it would be OK if I helped her get an appointment at a Denver-area hospital," Wiedel said. "We also organized her records and provided everything she needed to bring with her to that appointment.

"She later called me back to thank me. She told me, 'You helped me even though you got nothing out of it because I was going to another hospital.'

"In reality, we did get something out of this. We helped a resident of our area and realized we needed to do this for everyone," Wiedel said.

"Women who need follow-up exams are scared and confused. They don't know what to do next. Now, we have Julie to help guide them through the diagnostic process. If we can do anything to make this easier for women, that's what we're here for."

Isaacs will continue to perform mammographies and bone density studies at YVMC. She also will promote the importance of breast imaging and women's health.

"I know that some women have avoided having mammograms for many reasons," she said. "As this important month begins, I want to invite all women who may have put off this vital test to call me at 871-2514. We can work together to schedule a convenient time. I'm also available to answer any questions or concerns."

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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