By Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN
Something we forget to talk about is that men get diagnosed with breast cancer too. Their odds of being diagnosed are much lower than women, but still, approximately 2,620 cases in men are expected to be diagnosed by the end of this year.
One of the critical facts we know about many cancers and especially breast cancer, is that early detection is crucial. The sooner you can find a cancer in the breast, the earlier it can be treated, and the better your chances of survival are.
Blue Ridge Regional Hospital offers advanced screening options, including an important advancement in mammograms, 3D breast tomosynthesis. As opposed to a traditional 2D mammogram, the 3D mammogram allows radiologists a clearer picture of the interior of the breast. A 2D mammogram produces two images of the breast, one from the front and one from the side, and these combine to make a single image. 3D tomosynthesis produces multiple images of the breast from different angles and reveals layers of tissue. Because the radiologist views superior pictures and more of them, they can catch more cancers. 3D mammography has also been shown to reduce the number of false positives, which is when a patient is asked to return for follow-up testing or a biopsy, but it doesn’t turn out to be cancer.
If a patient receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, we offer on-site maintenance chemotherapy services right here at BRRH Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm. The infusion area is designed for our patients’ comfort, while also incorporating COVID-19 safety measures, such as keeping patients properly distanced from each other. Our nurses are highly trained in the administration of chemotherapy regimens for breast and other cancers, and BRRH is also conveniently equipped with both in-house lab and pharmacy services. The fact that patients can access this essential care close to home means that accessing care is easier for our community members.
I want to stress that scheduling your annual mammogram should not be delayed due to worries about COVID-19. As I’ve talked about in previous columns, BRRH is taking all advised precautions to keep our patients and staff safe, including the scrupulous and frequent cleaning of exam and waiting areas, making hand sanitizer and other hand hygiene essentials easily available at all times, and universal masking. We also have a socially distanced waiting area for our breast imaging patients. Our own imaging staff also observes healthy hand hygiene practices, and they conscientiously disinfect our equipment between every patient. Being diligent about getting your mammogram is a gift you give yourself and everyone who loves you.
Pink October reminds us that 1 in 8 is not just a statistic, it reflects real lives — and the reason we continue to fight for a cure for breast cancer. Until then, make sure to schedule your mammogram and check in on your family and friends to encourage them to do the same.
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.
Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine.