Monday Medical: Breast cancer care available close to home

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— Amid the sometimes daunting statistics and stories about breast cancer, Yampa Valley Medical Center Cancer Services Director Jan Fritz has a message of hope.

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Christine McKelvie

Monday Medical

Monday Medical columns publish weekly in the Steamboat Today's Yampa Valley Health section. Read more columns here.

“The promising news is that a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer is greatly improved with early detection and treatment,” Fritz said. “It may also be comforting to know that most treatment options are available close to home.”

A certified oncology nurse and cancer nurse navigator, Fritz has been providing cancer treatments, education and resources for individuals and families in Northwest Colorado since 1990. She outlines the following services that are available at YVMC:

Digital mammography: Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women age 40 and older or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer. Mammography also is used for diagnostic exams that a health care provider might order. YVMC’s mammography program is nationally accredited.

Ultrasound exams: These are utilized as a follow-up to a mammogram if more views are requested by the radiologist.

Pathology: An accurate diagnosis determines the type, size and stage of the tumor, which is key to developing individualized treatment plans. The YVMC pathologist is Dr. Jim Hopfenbeck, who works with the cancer team.

Oncology: Medical oncologists Drs. Allen Cohn and Robert Rifkin, of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, see patients at YVMC four days per month. They recommend treatment and provide medical management throughout a patient’s course of treatment, along with availability of clinical trials.

Tumor board: Cancer specialists gather monthly at YVMC to review cases that have been diagnosed or treated here in the Yampa Valley to establish treatment planning.

Infusion chemotherapy: Intravenous medication is provided in YVMC’s Infusion/Chemotherapy Center by oncology nurses.

Surgery: General surgeons Drs. Allen Belshaw and Mark Hermacinski perform lumpectomies and mastectomies at YVMC.

Reconstructive surgery: The newest member of the YVMC cancer team is Dr. Lisa Hunsicker, who specializes in restoring breast shape and appearance immediately following mastectomy for women who choose this option.

Genetic counseling: Some families that have multiple cases of breast cancer may seek genetic counseling and/or genetic testing. These services are offered by Barbara Hamlington, MS, who makes quarterly visits to YVMC. Appointments may be coordinated by calling 970-871-2464.

Lymphedema treatment: YVMC has three certified lymphedema therapists: Susan Ring, Jodi Bringuel and Kim Miles. They can treat this common side effect of breast cancer surgery and help patients achieve optimal mobility and function.

Cancer rehabilitation: Certified cancer exercise therapists Bringuel and Mary Beth Strotbeck work with patients to restore physical strength following surgery or other cancer treatment.

Integrated Health: This YVMC program provides numerous services for breast cancer patients, including acupuncture for pain relief, individual and group counseling, massage therapy, nutrition advice and the free monthly Whole Person Wellness support group meetings. Call 970-875-2731 for details.

Education: Fritz thinks that knowledge is a necessary component of cancer care. YVMC Cancer Care Services publishes a free monthly newsletter for patients and families; call 970-870-1047 for more information.

Research: YVMC’s Community Health Resource Center is a lending library whose experienced volunteers provide free research on any health topic, including breast cancer. Requests can be made by calling 970-870-1173 or emailing resource@yvmc.org.

Patient navigation: Cancer care often is described as a complex maze. Navigation assists patients and families in maneuvering through cancer treatment, connecting them to resources, community support or other health care agencies.

For example, breast cancer patients must leave the Yampa Valley when they require services such as breast MRI or radiation therapy, which are not available here. Women’s Imaging Coordinator Kathy Liberman and Fritz coordinate care and communication with other cancer centers.

“We actively participate with regional and national cancer centers and health care providers,” Fritz said. “We can tell patients what to expect, help them get there with appropriate medical records and welcome them back to continue their care here.”

For more information about YVMC services related to breast cancer, visit www.yvmc.org/cancer or contact Fritz at 970-871-2464 or janet.fritz@yvmc.org.

Christine McKelvie is a writer and editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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