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An Hour That Could Impact a Lifetime

An Hour That Could Impact a Lifetime
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An Hour That Could Impact a Lifetime: How an Annual Mammogram Could Save Your Life

By Holly Urban, Interim Chief Nursing Officer, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center

Our daily schedules can be tough to juggle. Especially when there is that “one more thing” to try and fit in. Especially now, when we have a new set of COVID-19-related challenges to navigate, like video work calls, shifting school schedules and more. But if you’re a woman age 40 or older, there’s one extra thing you should make time for – an annual mammogram. It’s one hour, once a year, that could save your life.

A mammogram is a simple, routine screening – about one hour, once a year – that helps detect breast cancer earlier than waiting for symptoms to appear. It is an important annual exam because early detection of breast cancer is key in fighting it. If you haven’t scheduled your annual mammogram yet or are ready to schedule your first, now – during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month – is a great time to do so.

Like many organizations, St. Joseph Breast Imaging Center, uses October to promote breast health and increase breast cancer awareness.  We also want to remind our community that we are here to provide the care you need – annual screenings, diagnostic exams and cancer treatments – when you need us.

The St. Joe’s Breast Imaging Center is a full-service breast health center that features 3D mammography technology.  3D mammograms offer better accuracy and fewer callbacks, and can be lifesaving, especially for women with dense breast tissue. Our radiologic technologists, who have their advanced certification through the American Registry of Radiological Technologists, perform all mammography exams and are sensitive to every patient's experience. Screening and diagnostic workups are done in a spa-like environment with the comfort, privacy, and compassion every woman deserves.

If you have experienced problems with your breast or have discovered a lump, your provider may order a diagnostic mammogram. In this case, the mammogram is focused on a specific concern of your breast.  At St. Joe’s Breast Imaging Center, our experienced, board certified radiologists who specialize in reading breast imaging, will be on hand during diagnostic mammograms to make sure the appropriate images are obtained.  They are available to perform additional procedures if necessary, at that time, to completely evaluate the area in question and discuss your mammogram with you prior to leaving the facility.

Our professional staff designed a workflow that enhances timeliness and improves the quality of care provided. Diagnosis of potentially cancerous tissue can be done quickly, allowing patients to be referred to their treatment options as soon as possible. This critical step can improve survival rates and overall quality of life.

Cancer Care at St. Joe's
If breast cancer is detected, our medical and surgical oncologists, nurse navigators, radiation therapists and multidisciplinary specialists are at the ready to provide the care you need, close to home, with a comprehensive cancer program. Our comprehensive cancer care program is the area’s only program accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC).

Our affiliation with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) ensures our providers here have a direct link to some of the top breast cancer specialists in the country. Surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, radiology, pathology and more can all be provided right here in the LC Valley.

St. Joe's also recently added a cutting-edge computed tomorgraphy (CT) system that improves physicians’ ability to effectively plan for future radiation treatment.  “As we continue to fight cancer in its many forms, innovative technology becomes all the more vital in both caring for the patient and eradicating cancerous cells,” says Gerardo Midence, MD, an oncologist at St. Joe’s. “This new CT system will help our physicians see an amazing level of anatomical detail as they focus on not only targeting the tumor, but also minimizing exposure to the patients’ healthy surrounding tissue.” 

And, from diagnosis and throughout the course of treatment, our breast care patient navigator walks alongside our patients helping them – and their families – by providing needed, individualized assistance.  Our patient navigator is there when requested for initial consultations and continues to help guide patients through appointments and next steps, all the while connecting them with resources including social workers, dieticians, physical therapists, pastoral care, financial advocates and other support services.

Together, we can fight breast cancer in our community through early detection and access to treatment. For more information about cancer services available at St. Joe’s visit us online at or call 208.743.7427.

Men and Breast Cancer
Did you know that approximately one out of every 100 diagnosed U.S. breast cancer cases is in a man? While rare, it does happen. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms are a lump or swelling in the breast, redness or flaky skin in the breast, irritation or dimpling of breast skin, nipple discharge and pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area. While treatment for breast cancer is the same for men as for women, risk factors can be a little different. They include older age, genetic mutations, family history of the disease, history of radiation or hormone therapy, Klinefelter syndrome, conditions that affect the testicles, liver disease and obesity.

Men with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or who have a family member with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, should share that information with their provider so that he or she can help guide you on any potential steps for genetic testing and early detection. And living a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight and getting in regular physical activity, can help all men lower their risk for the disease.

Cancer Care and COVID-19
While healthcare during COVID-19 may look and feel a little different, you can be assured that St. Joe’s is taking extra steps to ensure a safe environment for your visit, including enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures, daily staff and patient screenings, mask requirements and social distancing in waiting areas.  Don’t delay important screenings – mammograms and others – that could save your life.