Working side by side, they are creating a journey of care not available anywhere else in Canada. From the moment an abnormality is found, through diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care, the compassionate team of leading experts at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Breast Care Centre is helping to transform care for those facing breast cancer in London. Poised to become a model for Canada, the program brings together breast imaging, assessment, and surgery services in one location with the goal of seamless, comprehensive care.
The best in breast care
Recognizing that it takes more than medical care to help women, and men, fight breast cancer, education and support play a critical role in easing anxiety and empowering patients. Patients are better equipped to cope when they have the information, support and guidance they need throughout their care journey, explains clinical nurse specialist Margo Bettger-Hahn.
“They receive upfront education on the treatment plan and have access at all times to informed health care providers to answer questions and relieve anxiety,” says Bettger-Hahn. “Before their first appointment, patients really don’t know what lies ahead and may arrive with preconceived ideas based on the experience of others. With education and the proper support, they feel relieved, informed supported and empowered.”
Playing a critical role on the breast care team are nurse navigators. These highly skilled nurses specialize in smoothing the care journey for women. Coordinating care, advocating for the patient, providing education, ensuring support tailored to need is in place, and generally being a knowledgeable, consistent contact and guide for patients are all are part of the job, says nurse navigator Gillian Milcz.
“It’s a role most appreciated by patients. They have someone to listen to them, talk to them, teach them, and steer them through what can be an overwhelming experience.”
Breast care: by the numbers
More than 8,200 patients receive breast care every year at St. Joseph's Hospital.
St. Joseph’s performs about 23,000 mammograms, 7,200 breast ultrasounds, 700 breast MRI scans, and 50 MRI-guided breast biopsies each year. It is the only hospital in the region offering MRI-guided breast biopsies, one of many breast surgical procedures performed at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Other procedures include aspirations, lumpectomies, mastectomies and reconstructive surgery. In total, about 850 breast surgical procedures are performed at St. Joseph’s each year.
In a recent development, St. Joseph’s became a high risk breast screening site for women as young as 30. The program is an expansion of the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP). Women between 30 and 69 years old who are at a high risk for breast cancer can now receive breast MRI plus a mammogram and referrals for genetic testing through OBSP.
The future of breast care
The next exciting step in breast care for St. Joseph’s will be the move of breast imaging equipment into the Breast Care Centre. (Currently, breast imaging is done in the Diagnostic Imaging Centre at St. Joseph's). Renovations are currently underway to make this happen. When complete, all breast care services at St. Joseph's will be located in one location, allowing the interdisciplinary team, including surgeons and radiologists, to work side-by-side.