October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it serves as a reminder that early detection for breast cancer is vitally important. And because of advances in research, we no longer have to rely on the traditional screening techniques like mammograms and ultrasounds alone. We can pinpoint if you’re at increased risk for breast cancer based on a number of risk factors like family history and your ethnicity. Therefore, The Breast Center at Good Samaritan Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), has introduced a High-Risk Screening Program to help identify, at routine screenings, women who meet the criteria for high risk – nobody else in the area is currently doing that. Some of the risk factors include if a relative had a positive BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic test or if a woman is of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry (with or without a family history of breast or ovarian cancer).
When a woman comes in for her routine mammogram, we can identify if she is a possible carrier for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that could increase her risk of developing breast cancer. And if she is a carrier of that gene, proactive risk-reduction measures such as aggressive surveillance using MRIs or risk-reduction surgery are offered. This care goes hand in hand with consultations with a genetic specialist to help weigh options that are available. Tatyana Zakharenko, Manager of Genetic Services, works closely with Karen Karsif, MD, Medical Director, and the team at The Center for Breast Health to lead the High Risk Cancer Screening Program.
Ms. Zakharenko assesses patients’ personal and family cancer history to determine if testing is appropriate. Based on that information, she is able to generate personalized screening and prevention recommendations.
If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer and surgery is necessary, The Breast Center at Good Samaritan Hospital now offers the most advanced plastic surgery and reconstruction techniques. They include nipple sparing, invisible scar incisions, self-inflating AirXpanderreconstruction and flap breast reconstruction, the most advanced form of reconstruction. Patients who have undergone this procedure experience faster recovery and maintain abdominal strength.
At Good Samaritan Hospital, we also take care of the emotional side. A breast cancer support group called the Underwires is offered to help patients help each other. Because the center cares about the whole patient and ther kids, family, job, everything.
This support group is tremendously strong and sharing. It’s a safe haven to talk about all the issues that women face. When a woman is facing mastectomy or reconstruction, the group’s veterans, who once felt terrified themselves, offer support and are a resource for women. Given major advances, it’s not enough to just cure patients, but to give validity to their feelings and to ensure quality of life.
In addition, the center offers a Cancer Services Program, which provides free training and breast exams for those who are underinsured and would otherwise not have access to these critical supports.
By Alan Roth
For appointments or more information about The Center for Breast Health, call 1-866-596-8456 (evening and weekend hours available) or visit https://www.goodsamhosp.org/center-for-breast-health