For most people, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual reminder of one of the most common diseases affecting women. But for Nurse Navigator Heather Milne, RN; Mammography Technologist Debbie Demeulenaere, RTM; and the Breast Center team at Aspen Valley Hospital, breast cancer is a reality that touches women in our community every day.
The Breast Center offers comprehensive screenings, diagnoses, treatment options and educational and support services close to home.
“We’ve spent this past year focused on educating existing patients about what to expect from a biopsy procedure, and what new patients can expect when getting their first mammogram screening,” Milne says. “We educate and help support the patient diagnosed with breast cancer. And we also offer a free screening for women any time during their 40th birthday year.”
Unrivaled Breast Screening Technology
A key advantage to the Breast Center is that it offers the latest in cancer screening using state-of-the-art technology, including 3D mammogram screenings (since 2012) and dense breast ultrasound screening.
A large percentage of women in the Roaring Fork Valley have breasts with dense fibrous tissues that can mask tumors during a regular mammogram. This leading-edge equipment can get clearer, all-around images of the breast that allow the radiologist to better detect growths that may be cancerous.
“With all of this imaging technology and a team of dedicated breast radiologists studying the images, we can do all the screenings for the diagnoses locally,” Demeulenaere said.
Another important technology in the Breast Center is the Faxitron machine, which provides instant confirmation of a successful stereotactic biopsy procedure. It also helps to minimize procedure time and patient stress. Now, patients are able to have their biopsies close to home, using the latest medical technology, and with staff members they know and trust. “We are fortunate to have one of four upright stereotactic biopsy machines in the state of Colorado,” says Mammography Technician and Lead Stereotactic Biopsy Technician Kelly Fain, MRCT. “This stereotactic biopsy machine reduces the risk of complications and improves recovery time due to the upright position of the patient during the procedure.”
Friendly Faces, Never-ending Support
The Breast Center offers an intimate, spa-like environment — complete with herbal tea, soothing music and calming, inspirational artwork — that helps ease fear and anxiety as the nurse navigator, Milne, meets with breast cancer patients following diagnosis and helps them with all aspects of the treatment process: meeting with physicians and preparation for surgery.
Demeulenaere adds that it is critical to put a patient at ease before undergoing the mammogram, as they are likely to experience a lot of anxiety. “My goal is to have a great rapport with all patients,” said Demeulenaere, who has been with AVH for 41 years. “I treat everyone like my best friend. No patient is ever alone.”
Milne echoes that assurance, reminding patients that the Breast Center staff is always here for them — even after a patient has completed her screening or treatment. “If she has a question or needs help, she can always come and talk to us, without making an appointment,” Milne said. “We consider every patient part of our family.”
Other services such as nutrition counseling, lymphedema rehabilitation, reconstructive surgery and psychosocial support (as well as genetic counseling coming soon!) help patients regain strength and confidence to move forward and live well. For more information about the Breast Center at Aspen Valley Hospital, please call 970.544.1420 or visit our Breast Center page.
When should you be screened for breast cancer?
Annual screening mammography is recommended for women starting at age 40. For some women with elevated risk, such as a family history of breast cancer, screening should begin earlier, according to Milne and Demeulenaere. Please talk with your physician about your breast cancer risk. Remember, Aspen Valley Hospital offers a free mammogram for patients in their 40th birthday year.