Monday Medical: Breast health center enhances care, comfort

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Most women likely approach breast screenings with more than a little trepidation. Breast cancer occurs in an estimated 1 in 7 Colorado women and is the most often treated cancer at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Monday Medical

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

The disease’s prevalence and the stress surrounding screening and diagnosis spurred YVMC to rethink its breast health services. The resulting Breast Health Center will open in April.

The program, made possible by a donation from the trust of late Steamboat Springs philanthropist Gloria Gossard, features expanded services and capabilities designed to be more convenient and comforting.

A goal of the center is to provide a more cohesive diagnosis and treatment process, which involves a team of medical professionals, including a radiologist, pathologist, surgeon and oncologist.

Additionally, a breast health navigator will help facilitate communication between patients and doctors while also coordinating appointments, insurance and other stressful and often confusing details.

The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more it is treatable and curable. Every breast screening at the center includes a risk assessment, in which family history, breast density and other factors are weighed to help determine a woman’s breast cancer risk. The result may warrant special screening recommendations or a consultation with a genetic counselor.

“We want to personalize the experience for women,” said Dr. Terese Kaske, YVMC’s new breast imaging specialist radiologist and medical director of the Breast Health Center.

Dr. Kaske joins Dr. Malaika Thompson, also a breast imaging specialist, in performing breast screening and diagnostic procedures. The full-time radiology team makes it possible for women to receive imaging results during their appointments. This is especially beneficial to patients who are particularly anxious for outcomes.

Located in the medical office building adjacent to YVMC, the center provides a more pleasing experience for patients. They can bypass the hospital completely and expect a tranquil, spa-like environment when they arrive.

In keeping with technological advances in breast health, the Breast Health Center has acquired new equipment capable of additional services that will allow women in Northwest Colorado to receive breast care closer to home.

This includes an additional specialized mammography machine that provides digital X-ray images of the breast for screening and also stereotactic technology to guide biopsies.

Dr. Kaske has performed thousands of biopsies, which typically involve inserting a hollowed needle into the breast to remove abnormal tissue for further study to determine if it is cancerous. Radiologists use imaging technology such as ultrasound, X-ray/stereotactic or MRI to pinpoint a mass in the breast for biopsy.

Dr. Jim Hopfenbeck, YVMC pathologist, examines the tissue sample and provides results within two days.

The center’s new vacuum-assisted biopsy machine uses a special probe that is particularly effective for removing tissue from small lesions, abnormalities found during MRI or calcifications found on mammography that cannot be seen with ultrasound.

A general breast health screening involves a mammogram. However, ultrasound or MRI tests also may be conducted to investigate abnormalities found during a physical exam or mammogram, or if a woman is at a higher risk for developing breast cancer.

The Breast Health Center has breast ultrasound as well as a newly-updated breast MRI machine.

“We want the community to know these are not just new gadgets but a commitment to excellence and high-quality breast health services,” said Renee Gilbertson, program administrator of YVMC cancer services.

The American Cancer Society recommends women 40 and older receive annual mammograms. Some women may be advised to begin mammograms at a younger age and/or receive additional testing. Women in their 20s and 30s should receive clinical breast exams every three years. Most health plans must cover the cost of mammograms every one to two years for women 40 and older.

For more information about YVMC’s Breast Health Center, call 970-871-2399 or visit www.yvmc.org/breasthealth.

This article includes information from the “Community Health Needs Assessment, Yampa Valley Medical Center,” by the Center for Health Administration, University of Colorado Denver, the American Cancer Society, www.ada.org and www.healthcare.gov.

Tamera Manzanares writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at tameramanza@gmail.com.

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