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St. Luke's Breast Center Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Category: Patient Stories
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Dr. Kerri Harting, St. Luke's Breast Center and Kathy Schaefer, Breast Cancer SurvivorPublished in Woman Today magazine October/November 2017

It is the diagnosis no woman wants to hear. “You have breast cancer.”

A year ago in June, Kathy Schaefer, an RN who works at St. Luke’s in the Infusion Therapy Center, felt a lump in her right breast. After an ultrasound and biopsy at St. Luke’s Breast Center, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Because of her busy life, with illnesses of other family members and some other medical issues of her own, Kathy had put off having a mammogram for 8 years after her first mammogram had been normal.

When Kathy chose to have a bilateral mastectomy, Dr. Mark Monte, a board certified general surgeon at St. Luke’s, did her surgery. “I received wonderful care from Dr. Monte and everyone who cared for me at St. Luke’s after the surgery,” she explained.

“Women should not minimize the value of simple preventative care and going in to get an annual mammogram,” Kathy said. “The staff at the Breast Center are discreet, compassionate and informative people who are there to help.”

She added, “I ‘cheated’ cancer and I know many people who are less fortunate than I am. I am reminded of how lucky I am when I spend time with the brave oncology patients I work with every day. I have a greater understanding and empathy for what they are going through.”

Expert Diagnosis and Care

St. Luke’s Breast Center, located inside of St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, promotes breast health with educational outreach. They offer state-of-the-art equipment for early detection of breast cancer. Patients receive top-notch care from their dedicated staff.

The Center works efficiently to get the results back to patients as soon as possible after their exams. St. Luke’s Patient Portal system is another way that communication about results is done quickly so patients who are anxious about their results can access them sooner.

St. Luke’s now uses the Genius 3D Mammography System. As with the 2D mammogram, the patient has a technologist position the breast for compression. With the 3D mammogram, however, rather than just seeing four pictures, the doctor is able to see many pictures, layer by layer of the breast tissue, making fine details more visible.

3D mammography detects 41 percent more invasive breast cancers and reduces false positives up to 40 percent. It has been found to be particularly effective for women with very dense breasts.

Radiologist Dr. Kerri Harting, board certified by the American Board of Radiology, works in the St. Luke’s Breast Center doing Diagnostic Radiology and Breast Imaging. She completed a residency in radiology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, and a second residency at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI. She also completed a fellowship in Breast Imaging at the world-renowned Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University, St. Louis, MO.

While Dr. Harting spends roughly half of her time reading mammograms, she also does breast MRIs, breast biopsies and other diagnostic radiology.

Dr. Harting speaks highly of the 3D mammography imaging. “With hundreds of pictures, it shows one millimeter sections. We can detect smaller cancers and detect cancers sooner.”

She talks with every patient who has an abnormal mammogram. Thankfully, she says, the vast majority of patients diagnosed with breast cancer are in the early stages.

Dr. Harting recommends that beginning at age 40, every woman has a mammogram every year. “Life happens, women get busy, and some forget to make that appointment. Take twenty minutes to do this for yourself. Live life without the regret of ‘what if I had come in sooner?’”

Other preventative measures that Dr. Harting recommends include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet with natural foods, avoiding caffeine and getting exercise.

Knowing the Numbers

The statistics about breast cancer from the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) are sobering:

--On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and

1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.

--One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

--Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.

--Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

Some positive news is that there has been a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates have declined since 1990, likely due to better screening, early detection, increased awareness and improvement of treatment options.

Also great news is that women whose breast cancer is detected at an earlier stage have a 93 percent or higher survival rate in the first five years. The NBCF estimates that there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors alive in the United States today.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Mammography Day on the third Friday in October, women who may have put off getting a mammogram, should schedule one today and remind other women in their lives to do the same.

NBCF’s slogan rings true, “No one should face breast cancer alone.” Or better yet, with preventative measures and annual mammograms, no woman should have to face breast cancer at all.

For more information or to schedule a mammogram, call St. Luke’s Breast Center at 218.249.5361.