New Methods of Breast Tumor Investigation Make the Patient Experience Easier

Carol Wolfenbarger

Carol Wolfenbarger

By Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE

We see the well-recognized pink ribbon a lot in Breast Cancer Awareness Month — October. It symbolizes many things: the fight for a cure, the work that researchers continue to put into developing better testing and treatments, and for virtually everyone, it may remind them of a friend or loved one who has fought the disease or sadly, been lost to it.

At Mission Hospital McDowell [1](MHM), the importance of prevention is stressed, because the earlier breast cancer is found, the more treatment options are available, and the better a woman’s chances are for recovery. Being diligent about performing monthly breast self-exams is critical, as is practicing good self-care like eating well, exercising, getting good rest and managing stress effectively.

Preventive screening with imaging tests is also crucial. These are frontline strategies that no woman should skip. Mission Hospital McDowell is proud to offer advanced screening methods because we’re equipped with state-of-the-art preventive and diagnostic imaging tools and technology.

As we have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable that our community has a degree of fear. Mission Hospital McDowell, through diligent effort and protocols, is here to care safely for you. The rigor of our safety measures include, but are not limited to, screening of all employees, patients and visitors; mandatory masking within the facility; visitor limitations (Level II restrictions); socially distancing in our waiting areas as much as possible; and detailed cleaning of all equipment and areas. It is important that you do not delay care — or preventive screening — as these are key steps to keeping you well.

The “gold standard” for detection is mammography, which allows a radiologist to interpret images of the interior of the breast and search for abnormalities. It’s vital for women to prioritize getting their mammogram each year and make good on that commitment. We’re proud to offer 3D mammography, known as breast tomosynthesis, which provides multiple images of many parts of the breast, as opposed to an overlap of a single frontal and side view of the breast, which is what a traditional 2D mammogram provides. The 3D breast tomosynthesis is especially important for women with dense breast tissue, as the imaging study with 3D improves the picture for the radiologist.

Kelly McFarland, MHM’s Regional Director of Imaging Services, highlights for us this month additional diagnostic imaging services provided right here in our hometown. “We offer stereotactic biopsy, which samples microcalcifications (small white dots) in the breast that are often noncancerous but can sometimes indicate early cancer,” she says. The procedure provides needed information to physicians when a lump is found.

If a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, McFarland notes that MHM offers breast MRIs, a test that can provide information about the amount and distribution of cancer that’s present in a patient. Breast MRI results provide additional information to the physician as they develop the patient’s treatment plan. “Because of this,” McFarland says, “patients can get screening done faster, which helps expedite any decision-making for the patient and the surgeon.”

In addition, McFarland shares that two additional new radiation-based tools are being added to MHM’s services. “The Magseed® marker is a tiny magnetic seed that’s placed in the patient up to a month before surgery. It locates the area in the breast that’s to be removed during a lumpectomy,” she says, adding that “on the day of the surgery, the surgeon can find the tumor quickly, easily and without radioisotopes. Magseed helps to create a more streamlined and convenient process for the patient as compared to locating the tumor on the day of the surgery with a wire, which requires the patient to come in hours before their scheduled surgery.”

McFarland further explains that on the day of surgery, a breast cancer patient’s first few lymph nodes are removed and sent to the lab for analysis. Magtrace®, sometimes used with the Magseed implant, helps doctors localize the first lymph node near a tumor (the sentinel node) that the cancer spreads to, if it has spread. “This too can be done ahead of surgery,” says McFarland, “and on the same day as the Magseed procedure. Both the Magseed and Magtrace procedures make the patient’s experience more comfortable and improve patient flow as well.”

“What sets us apart is that we can offer such comprehensive services right here, which allows us to set and achieve excellence of care. Our patients deserve the best imaging possible and we’re excited to offer this care locally to our community,” says McFarland.

We’re proud to offer the best preventive and diagnostic imaging studies for breast cancer at Mission Hospital McDowell. Combined with our state-of-the-art and expanded imaging technology, our surgeons, in consultation with our radiologists, offer multiple surgical treatment options, including biopsies, lumpectomies and mastectomies to our patients. Advancing our technology and services so that you can access convenient care close to home is Mission Hospital McDowell’s top priority for our community.

In closing, I want to remind you to stay safe. COVID-19 continues to be present, and it is important that we continue to practice social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands.

I also want to make you aware of our Insurance Assistance Hotline, [2] which offers help for those struggling with being uninsured during the pandemic. Our trained professionals are there to assist those who need help applying for emergency medical coverage, from COBRA insurance to Medicaid. You can contact them Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm at 833-541-5757. [3]
Mission Hospital McDowell

Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell.

Mission Hospital McDowell, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving McDowell County. Located in Marion, North Carolina, Mission Hospital McDowell operates 30 beds including 5 labor and delivery suites. Medical specialties offered include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, and walk-in, non-emergency care at Mission My Care Now McDowell. Five of Mission Hospital McDowell’s primary care practices have been recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as Rural Health Clinics. For more information, please visit missionhealth.org/mcdowell. [1]