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The High-Risk Breast Cancer Program at Samaritan Breast Center

Dr. HeckThomas Heck, MD, is co-director of Samaritan Breast Center. Dr. Heck, is certified by the American Board of Surgery, is a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and is certified in breast ultrasonography. Good Samaritan’s breast cancer program was the first in the nation to be certified by the Joint Commission. Earlier this year, the Samaritan Breast Center introduced a high-risk breast cancer program, the first of its kind in the region.

What places a woman at high risk for breast cancer?

We ask a number of questions to determine if a woman is at high risk for breast cancer. For example: Have you ever been diagnosed with breast cancer before? Have you ever had a breast biopsy that showed precancerous changes? Has a close relative ever had breast cancer? Have you or a family member ever had ovarian cancer? Factors such as age and number of pregnancies play a role, too.

If you determine that a woman is at high risk for breast cancer, what happens next?

For most women, an annual mammogram and breast exam are enough to detect cancer early. If you are at high risk for breast cancer, however, you should take some additional steps. At Samaritan Breast Center, our high-risk patients receive a detailed medical history and complete physical exam plus whatever additional imaging studies – such as an MRI or ultrasound – our specialists prescribe. We help you develop a plan to meet your unique risk profile, including nutrition and exercise recommendations as well as medication and surgery as needed.

What kinds of doctors are on the high-risk breast cancer team?

I lead the team along with Samaritan Breast Center’s co-director, Diane Anderson, DO, who is a specially trained radiologist. The team also includes a certified breast care coordinator, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist and a certified genetic counselor. All of us are located at Samaritan Breast Center.

What does the genetic counselor do?

The genetic counselor’s main role is to talk with you about factors that can increase your risk for breast cancer. If your risk profile indicates it is appropriate, you will be given a blood test to see if you have an altered breast cancer (BRCA) gene. If this test is positive, the program’s genetic counselor will help you understand and manage your genetic risk for breast cancer.

Is a doctor’s referral to the high-risk program needed?

No. You can refer yourself by calling 937-275-PINK (7465). We will send you an assessment form to complete and return to us. Early detection is important because we are able to intervene when the cancer is most treatable. We urge all women to get their annual mammogram and breast exam. And if you believe you are at high risk for breast cancer, please take that extra step that could save your life. Give us a call.

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