OGDENSBURG — When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, the Ogdensburg Breast Health Center, part of the Richard E. Winter Cancer Center at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, is there to work quickly and treat the patient.
Principal Jessica Morley said early detection was important. No age is immune to the potential for breast cancer, she said.
“The best thing you can do is get a mammogram every year as scheduled,” she said.
Self-examinations can also be done. Both breasts should be checked monthly by palpating for a lump, thickening, hardened nodule, or other changes in the breast.
“There’s a quick Google search and you can figure it out, or you can find all kinds of resources on how to do it. The American Cancer Society has some really great resources and they will show you step by step exactly how to go through the steps to get yourself screened. They usually recommend doing it in the shower,” Ms Morley said.
Anyone diagnosed with breast cancer can visit Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center to consult with representatives from the Breast Health Center.
“If you come to Claxton-Hepburn, we have a multidisciplinary clinic specifically for breast cancer,” Ms. Morley said.
If the self-exam or mammogram finds something, a biopsy of the area will be done.
“If it comes back with cancer, the surgeon will usually call me at that point and let them know they need to make an appointment at the multidisciplinary clinic,” she said.
Once the pathology is restored and the diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed, the patient is scheduled to meet with a surgeon within a few days to discuss what surgical options are available.
“You meet with the radiation oncologist if radiation is going to be part of your treatment plan, and he describes exactly what that entails, what the side effects are, how the radiation works. You then meet with the medical oncologist to discuss whether or not you will need any treatment, which some people do and some don’t. It’s really very case-specific,” Ms Morley said. “It’s all within a few days of finding out you have cancer, so you won’t be waiting long, sitting around wondering what’s going on. You get all the answers right then and there.”
She said surgery is scheduled for a week, and after healing from surgery, patients return to the cancer center and begin the next phases of their treatment.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than hearing that and then having to wait weeks to find out what the next steps are.” So we really make it a priority to get back to you as quickly as possible. The average wait time is maybe two to three days to come back and make an appointment. Everything happens right there,” she said.
Treatment depends on the pathology of the tumor.
“For the most part, most people end up having some kind of surgery, either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Depending on what surgery they have, it is determined whether they need radiation or not. If you have a lumpectomy, it is almost guaranteed that you will have radiation, assuming no other factors apply. If you have a mastectomy, you don’t need radiation, and then chemotherapy versus long-term endocrine therapy versus no drugs is determined by the overall size of the tumor, whether it’s spread or not, and the pathology of the tumor,” Ms. Morley said.
She said the Breast Health Center has a high-risk navigator. This individual, focusing on the population, would be considered at high risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. This surveillance process begins after a person has a mammogram.
“You are asked questions that tell us whether you are potentially high risk or not. She then follows these patients very closely. They get mammograms every year, as well as MRIs every year, and follow up much more closely with one of our oncologists right from the start. That way, if they’re going to get it, we get it as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s important to make sure you keep up with your annual screening because the sooner we can catch it, the more likely we can fix it,” she said.
The breast health center is in the same area where people go to get mammograms, “which makes it easier for people because they know exactly where they’re going and all the doctors come to the same place. You walk into one room and you can bring your family members with you and all the doctors come to you, so you’re not trying to go to several different places to get your appointments. It’s all happening right here,” Ms Morley said.
For more information, call 315-393-2314.