St. Joseph's Breast Care Centre is significantly reducing wait times, increasing volumes and improving support for patients

Oct. 12, 2011

St. Joseph's Tribute Dinner kicked off national Breast Cancer Awareness month, with a celebration. Attended by nearly 1000 people, the Tribute Dinner held Oct. 6 was a salute to new innovations in breast care at St. Joseph's Breast Care Centre, which is changing the way women, and men, receive care.

Poised to become a model for Canada and a world leader, the Breast Care Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital brings together surgeons, radiologists, nurse navigators, advanced practice nurses, social workers, technologists, dietitions and others in one location with the goal of seamless, efficient, comprehensive care. Now one of the busiest breast care programs in the province, the centre has significantly reduced wait times, increased volumes and improved support provided to patients since all breast care screening, assessment and surgery services were consolidated at St. Joseph’s Hospital one year ago.

Tribute Dinner, which raised about $200,000 in support of patient and resident care across St. Joseph's, honoured the breast care team and the people it serves. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the media are invited to connect with experts in St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre, as well as patients, to talk about achievements in breast care and exciting developments on the horizon that will improve care and outcomes in London. 

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Dahlia Reich, Communication and Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
Phone: 519 646-6100 ext. 65294

Jennifer Parraga, Manager, Communications and Donor Relations
St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation
Phone: 519 646-6085, ext. 64590

The best in breast care

With all breast screening, assessment and surgery services now located at St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre, it has become one of the busiest breast care programs in Ontario and has made significant strides in improving care and the beast care journey for patients. While much work is ongoing to enhance care, some interesting facts include:

  • St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre now performs about 23,000 mammograms, 7,200 breast ultrasounds, 700 breast MRI scans, 50 MRI-guided breast biopsies and 850 breast surgical procedures each year.
  • About 8,200 patients with a potential breast abnormality now under go assessment and surgical consultation each year at St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre. 
  • Most women with an abnormal mammogram screening receive the necessary imaging and biopsy on the same day. Previously, women required multiple appointments with various wait times for each.
  • The time from when a patient is seen by a surgeon to when surgery is performed is now 36 days, down from 51 days.
  • A multidisciplinary approach, including nurse navigators who coordinate all care needed by the patients, is resulting in consistent support and education for patients and a smoother care journey. Previously, many patients did not receive support and education depending on where they received care in London.
  • A dedicated space for the Breast Care Centre, which will include breast imaging equipment, is now being renovated and is expected to be fully operational in January 2012.  Few centres in Canada have this integrated set up.

Is it benign or malignant?

While technology has dramatically improved detection of an abnormality in the breast, still challenging is determining whether that abnormality is benign or malignant. Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in early 2012 at St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre to test an innovative imaging approach that will help classify suspicious abnormalities.

Dr. Jeffrey Carson, a scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute, and colleagues Drs. Anat Kornecki, Don Taves, and Giulio Muscedere from St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre have developed 3D photoacoustic breast imaging that is capable of capturing optical information from abnormalities in the breast. The system utilizes a hand-held probe to rapidly capture 3D optical images up to 3 cm below the surface of the breast.  When used in combination with breast ultrasound, the new 3D photoacoustic breast imaging technology will provide clinicians with optical measurements that will help them decide if a breast abnormality is benign or malignant.

At St. Joseph’s, the new imaging technology could significantly reduce the need for breast biopsy procedures if proven successful.

Getting it all the first time

A way to make sure cancers are removed completely during breast conserving surgery is being studied at St. Joseph’s and could reduce the need for repeat breast surgeries.

Often referred to as lumpectomy, the surgery involves removing a large chunk of normal breast tissue surrounding the tumour.  The tissue is then sent for testing for the presence of tumour at the tissue surface. In about one in five cases, tumour tissue is discovered and the patient is called back, usually weeks later, for a second surgery to remove the cancer that was missed, explains Dr. Muriel Brackstone, surgical oncologist at St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre. 

To reduce the need for the second surgery, Dr. Brackstone and Dr. Jeffrey Carson, a scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, are developing an optical imaging scanner that will enable quick assessment of the tissue surface during surgery.

The technique, called angular domain spectroscopic imaging, has the potential to distinguish between normal tissue and tumour and reveal the presence of tumor at the tissue surface during the lumpectomy.  This important new development has the potential to give surgical oncologists, such as Dr. Brackstone, the capability to find the entire tumour in the first pass.

Finding the switch

Researchers at St. Joseph’s Breast Care Centre and The University of Western Ontario (Western) have their eye on what could be the switch that causes non-invasive (confined) breast cancer to dangerously spread within the breast and ultimately elsewhere in the body. That switch may be the Nodal protein secreted by tumour cells. In an exciting project, the researchers will be studying the Nodal protein in samples taken from of hundreds of breast cancer patients with the earliest forms of breast cancer. As part of this study, tumour samples will be taken, grown in the lab and watched in real time to monitor the protein and how it interacts with treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Surgical oncologist Dr. Muriel Brackstone is collaborating on the project with cell biologist Lynne-Marie Postovit at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. If the Nodal protein is found to be the switch, it may be possible to disarm arm it with medications.


St. Joseph’s Health Care London
St. Joseph’s Health Care London is leading patient care, teaching and research centre in Canada with a distinguished legacy of service to London, Southwestern Ontario and the veterans of Canada, dating back more than 130 years. St. Joseph’s five key role areas include acute/ambulatory care, complex care and veterans care, long-term care, rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics and specialized mental health care. Facilities and services including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Hospital, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care and Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas are part of the St. Joseph’s family. Our research arm, the Lawson Health Research Institute, continues to direct their research to the development of new knowledge that is continually being applied directly to patient care. St. Joseph’s. St. Joseph’s is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.

St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation
St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation gathers, grows and grants philanthropic funds to enable St. Joseph’s Health Care London to pursue excellence in care, teaching and research. Through donor support, the foundation contributes to advances in the delivery of patient care, specialized equipment, research initiatives and capital funds for hospital building projects at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Hospital, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas and Lawson Health Research Institute. One of the largest charitable organizations in Southwestern Ontario, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation is accredited as one of only 250 Canadian charities to adhere to Imagine Canada’s Ethical Fundraising & Financial Accountability Code.

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