Northwest Indiana hospitals invest in breast cancer services - October 19, 2017

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana

Written by Giles Bruce

Northwest Indiana hospitals are increasingly investing in oncology services, including breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

From building new cancer centers to buying the latest in screening technology, Region health care facilities are positioning themselves to treat the country’s most common form of cancer.

At its hospital in Munster, Franciscan Health is constructing a new $46 million cancer center that is expected to be completed sometime next year. At the new facility, the screening will be individualized.

“Instead of getting the same imaging of each patient, the patient’s risk and individual breast will be taken into account to see what method is best for them: 3-D mammography, traditional mammography, breast MRI or ultrasound,” said Dr. Luke Collins, a radiation oncologist with Franciscan Health.

The new facility will also have radiation machines that target the treatment so it doesn’t affect organs that don’t have cancer.

Methodist Hospitals estimates it has invested about $8 million into breast cancer services over the past past five years, including 3-D mammography, a linear accelerator radiation machine and MRI machine. Methodist is also constructing a high-risk breast center.

“The key behind high-risk breast cancer is we want to identify these cancers as early as possible,” said James Concato, director of oncology services at Methodist. “We know the earlier the cancer is detected, the longer the patient survives.”

Detection is especially important in Lake County, which has a lower rate of women getting mammograms than the state and national average, said Jennifer Sanders, manager of mammography services for Methodist. The county also has a higher rate of mortality from breast cancer and women being diagnosed at a later stage of the cancer.

In the past year, LaPorte Hospital invested $490,000 in 3-D mammography, also known as breast tomosynthesis. The advanced form of breast imaging uses low-dose X-ray and computer reconstruction to create three dimensional images of the breasts.

Porter Regional Hospital recruited two new medical oncologists, Drs. Tareq Braik and Janet Retseck, in 2017. Both offer new chemotherapies and targeted therapies for the treatment of breast cancer.

In June, Braik presented research at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, highlighting the increasing trends in mastectomies as a means for early breast cancer prevention and treatment, especially among celebrities. In his research, he found that the increased use of mastectomies was not associated with better outcomes compared with removing only the lump and small bits of surrounding tissue in patients with early stage breast cancer.

Community Healthcare System uses positron emission tomography, or PET, scan to detect breast cancer. The injectible technology can detect even the smallest of cancers, said Dr. Mary Nicholson, a breast radiologist with Community Healthcare System.

“We make it faster, more accurate and more comfortable for the patient,” she said.

Community also recently hired a medical geneticist to assist in genetic testing, including for breast cancer, and has a tattoo removal clinic to remove the tattoos that women receive as part of their breast lumpectomies.