New Program Helps Women Manage Breast Cancer Risk

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment team
Lowell General Hospital’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program is led, from left, by Kathleen Saucedo, NP, Breast Health Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Jill Steinkeler, Director of Breast Imaging; Dr. Lerna Ozcan, Medical Director and Breast Surgical Oncologist; Dr. Anasuya Gunturi, Associate Medical Director, Cancer Care Associates, and Jennifer Gilliatt, NP, Breast Health Nurse Practitioner.

Currently, women in the United States have a 1 in 8 chance in developing breast cancer over their lifetime. To help combat these odds, Lowell General Hospital has a comprehensive breast health program, accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC).

This includes 3D imaging for preventive screening, state-of-the art treatment options, and now, a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program for those identified to be at high risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr. Lerna Ozcan, a breast surgical oncologist and medical director of the Breast Center of Excellence at Lowell General Hospital has helped spearhead efforts to develop this new program.

“This program allows women who are identified as high risk to establish care with providers such as breast surgeons, breast health navigators, medical oncologists, and other team members,” says Dr. Ozcan. “We can plan for surveillance imaging, including mammograms and possibly breast MRIs. We can review lifestyle modifications and other treatment options
to decrease their overall lifetime risk of breast cancer.”

A woman’s risk is calculated at the time of her screening mammogram using three risk models that determine whether a woman is at average, intermediate, or high risk. If a patient is determined to be at high risk, their primary care physician is notified so they can have a discussion together about being referred to the program.

Susan Skinner, RN, MSN, ANP-BC, CNBP, adult nurse practitioner and breast health navigator, says that having risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer. There are risk factors that can be reduced or controlled with diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption.

She says many patients ask about genetic testing to see if they have a particular gene mutation that may affect their risk over their lifetime. “Many people are familiar with BRCA 1 and 2 mutations, but we now know that there are up to 23 genes that can be associated with the development of breast and ovarian cancer,” Skinner says. “We take this very seriously and we do a very good assessment to make sure that patients are referred for genetic counseling and genetic testing when it’s appropriate.”

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program opens for patient appointments on September 11, 2018 at the Lowell General Hospital main campus Cancer Center annex. This service will be part of a new dedicated space for Women’s Health Services supported in part by the $1 million raised by TeamWalk for CancerCare, and continue the hospital’s mission to keep state-of-the art women’s health services convenient and close to home.

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