Women's health needs a priority for Northwest Indiana Hospitals 

Aug 26


“Mammography has made a tremendous difference as far as breast cancer treatment goes,” said Dr. B.H. Barai, medical director, Oncology Institute at Methodist Hospitals. “Eighty to 85 percent of Americans diagnosed with breast cancer live five years and beyond. And now we have the latest three-dimensional mammography equipment which was approved by the FDA in 2011. It’s like an HDV TV with a resolution of 700 and then you get one with 1100.”

Because they’re less accurate, women getting traditional mammograms often had to be called back for a second look resulting in extra doses of radiation as well as added anxiety. Also earlier detection means a higher survival rate.

“Twenty years ago, 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers were diagnosed stage 1, which had a cure rate of 85 percent,” Dr. Barai said. “Fifteen to 20 percent were diagnosed at stage 2 and the cure rate was 85 percent, 25 to 30 percent were stage 3 with a cure rate of 60 percent and 20 to 35 percent were stage 4 and there was a five year survival rate but no cure rate. Now with more and more insurances funding mammograms, more women are getting them and now 50 percent of cancers are diagnosed at stage 1, 25 to 30 percent at stage 2, 5 to 10 percent at stage 3 and 5 to 10 percent at stage 4.”

Because of this, Dr. Barai said 80 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed when they’re curable. Adding to that, new drugs recently introduced to the market or soon to be on the market add to breast cancer survival rates. Also with less women getting hormone therapy, Dr. Barai believes that will also positively impact the cancer figures though he notes that people should know that hormones are hormones.

“It’s not only hormones prescribed by doctors that are bad,” he said.

Comfort, security and comprehensive family-centered medical care for women and children is the goal of the newly opened Women & Children’s Pavilion at Porter Regional Hospital.

“I look at the human aspects of care,” said Elaine Merkel, director of the Women & Children's Pavilion. “We put everything on one floor; we have a volunteer to greet people at the door. We do our C-sections on the floor with the same equipment that’s in the operating room so there’s not so much jockeying a patient around. That way it’s like a live birth, not surgery. All rooms are private because that’s one of the biggest complaints we get — having to share a room. We offer post partum rooms. The new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is close to the nine labor and delivery suites as well as the two obstetric operating rooms, ensuring that babies can quickly be in the care of a specialized neonatology team within seconds of delivery. We worked out the space from scratch to meet all of these needs.”

The newborn intensive care rooms are also private as studies have shown it increases bonding between mother and child. Like a one stop shop, expectant mothers can come in for their labor checks and Rh-negative mothers-to-be can get their RhoGAM shots at the pavilion. The hospital’s da Vinci robotic surgical platform, which expands the surgeon's capabilities and a minimally invasive option for major surgery is used for operations like C-sections.

Designed to create a spa like atmosphere, new moms get a Vera Bradley bag to take home as well as a baby briefcase to organize information like birth certificates, insurance papers and social security forms.

“Housekeeping folds towels into animal shapes just like on cruise ships,” Merkel said.

Biopsies are often done by radiologists using stereotactic mammography or ultrasound, said Dr. Smari Thordarson, whose specialty is diagnostic radiology at IU Health LaPorte Hospital. This type of image-guided needle biopsy is less invasive than surgically removing the suspected abnormality and is particularly helpful when lumps can’t be felt but are detected through diagnostic imagery.

According to a report released this June by HealthGrades, the nation’s leading, independent source of physician information and hospital quality ratings, Community Hospital among top 5 percent in nation for women’s health. In a summary of their report, HealthGrades notes that an additional 39,450 women could have potentially survived their hospitalization and 19,062 could have avoided a major complication if all hospitals had performed at the level of HealthGrades Women’s Health Excellence Award recipient hospitals.

“It is significant that Community Hospital has been ranked among the top 5 percent in the nation for the care provided to women for the fourth consecutive year,” said Don Fesko, CEO of Community Hospital. “What this means is that Community Hospital is a top-performing hospital for quality female patient outcomes. It is the only hospital with this HealthGrades designation in Northwest Indiana.”

Janice Ryba, St. Mary Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, said another of their unique attributes is offering same-day mammography to biopsy at the Women's Diagnostic Center of St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart particularly if the digital mammography is done early in the day.

For women with an increased risk for breast cancer because of such indicators as family history or certain ethnicities, the High Risk Breast Clinic of Community Hospital's diagnostic center offers a myriad of services such as clinical breast exams by a certified nurse practitioner, the development of an individualized surveillance plan and prevention strategies like healthy-living options, drug therapy and even preventative surgery.

Thordarson recommends women who fall within the high-risk category should talk to their family doctor about whether they need to see a geneticist.

“A geneticist can calculate your risk of getting breast cancer,” he said. “They can say whether it’s a 10, 20, 30 percent chance. Then their physician can take steps such as having an MRI on the breast and a mammogram alternately every six months. Adding a breast MRI is a very good test for diagnosing breast cancer but not for those at normal risk.”

Thordarson says every clinic and hospital performing mammograms must be accredited, but do not have to be MRI or biopsy accredited.

“IU Health LaPorte is accredited as a Breast Cancer of Excellence in all three areas by the American College of Radiologists (ACR),” Thordarson said. “And because most women have it done in one place — a mammogram, MRI and biopsy if needed, it indicates a level of commitment when hospitals have that ranking.”

According to Karin Kolisz, Franciscan St. Anthony Health vice president of clinical services, ACR designated Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point as a Breast Cancer Imaging Center of Excellence.

St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart also is an ACR designated facility.

The designation is awarded for achieving excellence not only in the mandatory Mammography Accreditation Program but also by seeking and earning accreditation in all of the ACR’s voluntary programs and modules including Stereotactic biopsy, radiology, equipment, imaging and processes.

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