Dealing With Breast Cancer

Genesis Center for Breast Health offers coordinated care from experts in breast health

Marsha Pedersen shares a light moment with her breast surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lohmuller.

Marsha Pedersen shares a light moment with her
surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lohmuller, during a consultation
this week at the Genesis Center for Breast Health in
Davenport. She recently had a lumpectomy for
breast cancer.

For years, Marsha Pedersen has faithfully had her mammograms at the Genesis Center for Breast Health. She has been vigilant about keeping her yearly exams, especially because she has a fibrocystic breast condition.

So she didn't worry too much when she had a mammogram in August and came home from her appointment to find a message telling her she needed to come back for another. It wouldn't be the first time she needed a second mammogram.

"Every woman thinks about breast cancer, especially if she has fibrocystic breasts. The breast tissue is denser with this condition, making it harder to screen for breast cancer," says Mrs. Pedersen of Bettendorf. "But the same thing had happened to me before, and I ended up with a normal report after the second mammogram."

She and her husband, Don, were visiting family in Washington, so she made an appointment for when she returned.

Disturbing Results

This time, however, the second mammogram didn't conclusively clear her of breast cancer.

In the days and tests to come, she would develop a greater appreciation for the Center for Breast Health and its multidisciplinary approach that brings together surgeons, radiologists, nurses and mammography technologists -- all with special expertise in breast health.

"I went for my appointment; had the mammogram; and the radiology technologist came back and said, ‘You need to have an ultrasound.' Right then, I knew it probably wasn't going to be good news," she says.

That particular day held other complications: Her husband was in the midst of his own medical emergency -- a possible detached retina.

When radiologist Dr. Robert Hartung of Radiology Group entered the room to perform a breast ultrasound, Marsha Pedersen's thoughts were torn between worrying for her husband's eyesight and her future diagnosis. Immediately, she was impressed by Dr. Hartung's kindness and expertise.

A breast ultrasound is the only way to determine if a mass is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass. A solid mass could signal the possibility of cancer.

"When Dr. Hartung did my ultrasound, he said, ‘I would like to do a breast biopsy right now.' I said, ‘I think that would be good, too, but unfortunately my husband is at Eye Surgeons, and I really need to get there now.' "Dr. Hartung was very understanding and said, ‘Of course you do.' He said I could give him a call back, and he would do the biopsy that afternoon."

Her husband would have surgery and found out he did not have a detached retina. The question remained whether his wife would be as fortunate.

Later that Monday, Dr. Hartung performed the biopsy, and three days later, Marsha Pedersen would know the results.

"From the mammograms, to the ultrasound, to the breast biopsy, it occurred to me that this was all happening right there at the Center for Breast Health," she says. "I didn't have to leave and go to another part of the hospital for the different tests. I didn't have to think about getting in my car. Everything was right there. At a time when you know you might have cancer and you're feeling numb, it's comforting to know the health team and technology are all there at the same familiar place.

"I felt a team effort at the Center for Breast Health. I felt a great deal of empathy from the people around me."

Collaborative Care

Since 1994, the Genesis Center for Breast Health has been a cutting-edge force for breast wellness on the East Rusholme Street campus in Davenport.

That expertise benefits the entire Genesis system of care, with Center for Breast Health locations at the Genesis Imaging Center in Bettendorf and the Genesis hospital campuses in DeWitt and Silvis as well.

Two years ago, the center became the first health system in the Quad Cities to offer digital mammography. Today, it's the only one in the region to offer digital mammography in four locations.

From screenings and consultations to diagnosis, planning, treatment and support, the Center for Breast Health uses a collaborative team to deliver care. This unique approach brings together surgeons from Davenport Surgical Group, radiologists from Radiology Group, nurses and mammography technologists to provide a continuum of care for patients.

"With a team of breast health experts -- including surgeons and radiologists specializing in breast health -- our patients can benefit from a more accurate diagnosis and a faster pre-treatment process," says David Aanestad, M.D., of Davenport Surgical Group, the center's medical director.

Trish Tuftee, RTR(M), shows off the new
automated breast ultrasound system at
the Genesis Center for Breast Health.
The somo.v by U-Systems, Inc. is used
as an adjunct to mammography to help
detect abnormalities in women with
dense breasts.

Physician teams review individual cases to ensure patients have the best treatment options. Surgeons and radiologists work on site with center staff. Consultations between physicians can be done immediately, improving the continuity of care the center provides.

That continuity of care would be very reassuring to Marsha Pedersen when the phone rang with results of her biopsy.

"I picked up the phone, and the caller said, ‘This is Dr. Hartung.' I said, ‘I don't think I want to talk to you today,' " she recalls. "He said, ‘I don't think you want to talk to me either.' "

Her diagnosis: Infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Low-grade. A 90 percent cure rate.

Next, she would meet with a Center for Breast Health surgeon Dr. Joseph Lohmuller of Davenport Surgical Group. Last month, she had a lumpectomy to remove a small breast tumor and a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine if the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

She learned the outer edges of the lumpectomy were clean and the three nodes were benign. "I was lucky to have had my cancer caught in the earlier stages," she says. "I have a tremendous faith in God and I just felt it was going to be OK."

Genesis, through its Center for Breast Health, was one of the first hospitals in the country to study the effectiveness of sentinel lymph node biopsy, which now is an accepted standard of care for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The procedure is a less invasive way to determine how far the disease has spread, with fewer side effects.

During a sentinel lymph node biopsy, an average of one to three sentinel lymph nodes are identified and removed, versus the 10-25 lymph nodes removed during a full axillary lymph node dissection. If the sentinel nodes do not contain cancer, there is more than a 95 percent chance the remaining axillary lymph nodes are also cancer-free.

Later this month, Mrs. Pedersen will see a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist. She has chosen to undergo the next phase of her treatment at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute, which has the latest radiation technology.

"I feel lucky to have such great health care in my own community," she says. "Dr. Hartung and Dr. Lohmuller have been wonderful, and my whole experience at the Center for Breast Health has been so positive -- even at a time when my anxiety has been high. They did it all for me... all I had to do was show up."

She encourages women to learn from her experience and get a yearly mammogram. "It's scary to think about the possibility of breast cancer, but the earlier you detect it, the better chance you have of good success."

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QC Breast Cancer Support Group

If you have breast cancer, have been recently diagnosed, or are a survivor, join the QC Breast Cancer Support Group. Completely free to attend, sharing your story with others that understand your experience can truly help to keep you strong, motivated and connected.

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