Good Samaritan Hospital Launches High Risk Breast Cancer Program at Good Samaritan North Health Center
Advances in diagnostics and genetic testing give women answers about their risks
DAYTON, OHIO, Oct. 1, 2008 – According to the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group (2007), an estimated 182,460 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women in 2008. And while screening programs are resulting in the earlier detection of the disease when it is more easily and successfully treated, breast cancer claimed the lives of more than 40,000 American women in 2007. On the minds of many women is one simple question, “Am I at risk?”
Good Samaritan Hospital has launched a new High Risk Breast Cancer Program at Good Samaritan North Health Center to provide women with answers.
“Diagnostic advances and genetic research have given us a better understanding of who is at greater risk for breast cancer, and this is helping us gather the information we need to advise patients on how to better treat and reduce the risk of disease,” said Dr. Thomas Heck, co-director of the Samaritan Breast Center at Good Samaritan North Health Center. Good Samaritan’s breast cancer program was the first in the nation to be Gold Seal-certified by the Joint Commission.
Dr. Heck, a breast surgeon, is a member of Good Samaritan’s new High Risk Breast Cancer Program team, which also includes Ann Lensch, RN, MS, a breast care coordinator; Faith Callif-Daley, MS, a certified genetic counselor who is also on staff at Dayton Children’s Medical Center; and Dr. Shamim Jilani, a medical oncologist. The team is supported by radiologists who specialize in the reading of breast exams, including Dr. Diane Anderson, co-director of the Samaritan Breast Center.
This new program starts with an assessment of risk factors, such as a woman’s personal history of cancer, previous radiation treatments, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and previous abnormal tests. Additional assessments delve deeper into the patient’s medical and family history, and are reviewed by Dr. Heck and Callif-Daley. If further testing is necessary, the option of genetic testing will be presented, and Callif-Daley will meet with the patient and explain the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of genetic test results.
“Testing positive for a genetic mutation that predisposes you to breast cancer does not mean you will get breast cancer, and testing negative does not mean you won’t get breast cancer,” explains Callif-Daley. “There are many other factors that determine your overall risk, and we need to carefully examine the whole of a woman’s health, not just individual pieces.”
For women determined to be at higher risk, whether through genetic testing or other methods, surgery or medications may be recommended to reduce their risk for cancer. Additionally, a medical surveillance program will be developed to monitor for any occurrence of breast or related cancers. That may include more frequent clinical breast exams, ultrasound exams or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, along with digital mammograms.
Linda Blum’s Story of Survival
Linda Blum, 54, of Clayton, OH, is a woman who wanted answers about her breast cancer risk. In May of 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Blum was a busy mom of four, wife and caregiver to her husband who was fighting throat cancer, in addition to serving as a cheerleading coach and school board president for the Northmont City Schools. She says she “had too much to live for” and wasn’t going to take her diagnosis “lying down.” Seven months later, after a lumpectomy, intensive chemotherapy and radiation, she was cancer free.
When she was originally diagnosed, no one in her family had any form of breast cancer. Within three years, however, five cousins on her father’s side had been diagnosed with either melanoma or breast cancer. Blum began to worry about the possibility of a recurrence of her cancer.
After consulting with the High Risk Breast Cancer Program team at Good Samaritan North Health Center, Blum decided to be tested for a breast cancer gene mutation. She tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation, giving her a 50 to 60 percent likelihood for another breast cancer, as well as a 15 to 30 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer. As a preventative measure, Blum recently chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy, and plans to have a hysterectomy later this year.
These were not easy decisions for Blum to make, and they were made after careful deliberation with her family and her care team at Good Samaritan. “We have great medical care in this community – right here in Dayton! These are experts who can help you find your way through your journey,” she said. “I am the luckiest person in the world, with the team of doctors I have at Good Sam. I trust them 110%.”
Armed with the information about her higher risk for breast and ovarian cancers, Blum is under medical surveillance by the team at Good Samaritan, and she will continue to carefully monitor her health and have regular exams to ensure she stays cancer-free. “The more information you’re armed with, the better decisions you can make,” she said.
Patients interested in learning more about Good Samaritan’s High Risk Breast Cancer Program can call 877-GSH-WELL or visit www.GoodSamDayton.org/highrisk.