October 21, 2020

1 in 8: What You Need to Know and Do to Protect Yourself from Breast Cancer

Tonia Hale

Tonia Hale

By Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, everyone at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital (BRRH) is especially focused on breast health and raising awareness about breast cancer and prevention. I also urge community members to take advantage of the advanced screening technology we have here at BRRH, and not to put off scheduling their mammograms, which may be more of a temptation during this time of concern about COVID-19.
We know that 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point throughout the course of their lifetime. According to breastcancer.org, the estimate for new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2020 is nearly 276,500, and that excludes over 48,500 cases of noninvasive breast cancer, or breast cancer in situ (cancer cells have not spread outside the milk ducts to the breast tissue).

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.

This is why we encourage both women and men to perform routine monthly breast self-exams, and for women to get yearly mammograms, due to the fact that the likelihood of their being diagnosed is significantly higher. There are many reputable sources, such as breastcancer.org, where you can learn exactly how to do one. You can also talk to your primary care physician about the proper technique and why it is such an important preventive step.

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.

We’re proud to offer this technology to our community members, as it not only gives more complete information to our radiologists, it eases the anxiety associated with the mammogram for the patient overall. To schedule a 3D breast tomosynthesis appointment at BRRH, simply call 828-766-1760.

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.

I also want to make you aware of our Insurance Assistance Hotline, 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.

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital

Tonia W. Hale, DNP, MAOM, BSN, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine.

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving Mitchell, Yancey, lower Avery and upper McDowell counties. Located in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital is a Critical Access Hospital operating 25 beds. Blue Ridge Regional Hospital offers medical specialties including emergency services, prenatal and postnatal obstetrical care, wound clinic, cardiac stress testing, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, nuclear medicine, 3D mammography, endoscopy services, critical care, rehabilitation services and fitness center, cancer services, orthopedics, general surgical services, pediatrics and family medicine, and walk-in, non-emergency care at Mission My Care Now Spruce Pine. For more information, visit missionhealth.org/blueridge.