Early detection of tumors is the key to the best outcomes. With breast cancer, mammography is the key to early detection.
The goal of the annual mammogram is to detect cancer before clinical signs and symptoms - like swelling, lumps, skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain or discharge - are noticeable. Mammograms should be part of annual health screenings beginning at age 40, unless a woman has an increased risk of breast cancer. If a woman's mother, sister or daughter has had breast cancer, then she should discuss her risk and screening protocol with her physician.
"Women should be doing monthly breast self-exams," said Dara Leichter, Lee Memorial Health System director of outpatient breast health imaging.
Leichter is one of two breast cancer nurse navigators at the Regional Cancer Center, which means that she works with newly-diagnosed women and their families to determine options and best plan of treatment.
At the Regional Cancer Center, the path to treatment is one that includes a comprehensive consultation and evaluation through the Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic, which brings a variety of cancer specialists together in one place, in one visit.
A visit to the clinic includes an individual meeting with a medical oncologist, surgeon and radiation oncologist. Each physician completes a full assessment, discusses possible treatment options and answers any questions related to the breast cancer diagnosis. After meeting all three physicians, the patient is treated to a complimentary lunch while the physicians - along with a pathologist, radiologist, nurse navigator, genetic counselor, oncology clinical pharmacist, dietitian, and, if necessary, plastic surgeon - discuss the patient in detail. Using National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines and reviewing all radiology films and pathology slides, the group determines the best individualized plan of care for the patient. Once the patient returns from lunch, the nurse navigator explains the recommended plan of care to the patient and all necessary appointments are scheduled in a timely manner.
Individuals can ask their physician for a referral to the clinic, or may self-refer if they have not decided on a plan of care or would like a second opinion.
"We always want to educate and engage patients so they can make informed decisions," Leichter said. "Having all of the necessary experts at one visit means that questions are answered and a collaborative treatment plan is determined and can begin quickly. It helps our patients feel confident and hopeful after a frightening and complicated breast cancer diagnosis."
Lee Memorial Health System's Breast Health Centers use the latest, leading-edge equipment to provide the most accurate diagnosis possible, and have earned the designation of Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence from the American College of Radiology. To make an appointment at one of three convenient locations, call 239-424-1499.
From screening to diagnosis, treatment and recovery, Lee Memorial Health System and the team at the Regional Cancer Center are there every step of the way.
To learn more about the Multi-disciplinary Breast Clinic or to make an appointment, call Leichter at 239-343-9543 or Tammy Zinn, RN, breast cancer nurse navigator, at 239-343-9546. Or, visit www.LeeMemorial.org/cancercare/navigators