Then and Now: Breast cancer detection and treatment in the High Country

Then and Now: Breast cancer detection and treatment in the High Country

Few things in life are more unifying than a breast cancer diagnosis. Of course, the diagnosis itself is devastating, but it also has a way of bringing together family, friends and medical staff in unexpected and life-changing ways.

At Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) patients have come to expect and appreciate the family-first team approach used to diagnose and treat breast cancer in the High Country. Thanks to advanced technology, a collaborative medical community, innovative surgical techniques, and a first-class regional cancer center located right here in our backyard, patients are choosing now more than ever to stay in our community for their cancer treatment.

 

1993: Regional Cancer Center is established

Watauga Medical Center established the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center in Boone, bringing cancer care – previously unavailable in the High Country – close to home. Patients and their caregivers are seen as family by the highly-trained and compassionate staff. Since its founding, the Cancer Center has continually improved access and quality of care.

2002: Wilma Redmond Fund begins providing mammograms for local women

The Wilma Redmond Mammography Fund is dedicated to the memory of Wilma Redmond, who for more than 20 years managed Watauga Medical Center’s Imaging Department and courageously fought her own breast cancer. When she died in 2002, a fund was established by Watauga Medical Center Foundation (currently Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation). The fund provides free first-time mammograms for uninsured women 35 years and older.

2003: Stereotactic breast biopsy is introduced at Watauga Medical Center

A breast biopsy obtains a sample of breast tissue in order to test for signs of breast cancer or other disorders. Stereotactic is a clinical word for a technique using a mammography machine to precisely locate where the sample should be taken. In 2015, The Wilma Redmond Breast Center, located in the Outpatient Imaging and Lab Center, began performing stereotactic breast biopsy.

2008: The first digital mammogram is performed

Breast diagnostics advanced even further in the High Country with the addition of digital mammography. Instead of mammograms producing x-ray film, a digital image is created that can be manipulated in order to see more clearly.

2015: 3D Mammography comes to the Wilma Redmond Breast Center

With a traditional mammogram, radiologists were tasked with reading the complexities of the breast in a flat image. 3D Mammography builds images into very thin layers, or slices, making details more clear and unobstructed by overlapping tissue.

Because 3D Mammography allows the radiologist to better assess the size, location and shape of any abnormal tissue, more cancers are found at earlier, more treatable stages. The Hologic Three-D mammography technology accounts for 41% increase in the detection of invasive breast cancers and a 40% decrease in a callback rate for a false positive finding.

Even so, some insurance companies still only cover the standard mammogram. Because ARHS felt so strongly about making the latest diagnostic technology available to all of our community, the healthcare system decided to perform all mammograms with 3D technology and not to ask patients to pay out of pocket for any additional costs not covered by their insurance.

2015: Local genetic testing expanded to provide an extensive panel of genetic mutations to be checked

Cancer Genetics counseling and testing is available to our patients. At the no-cost initial visit, patients can meet with a genetic counselor who reviews the patient’s personal and family history, discusses the risks and benefits of genetic testing, and provides support in healthcare decision making. Further testing and evaluation are also available.

2015: The Wilma Redmond Breast Center institutes a fast-track breast program and a breast navigation team

Patients with an abnormal breast screening are sent to a fast track for surgical consultation so doctors can diagnose cancer early and immediately begin to treat it. The breast navigator, Gloria Payne, RTRM, walks patients through the process of receiving abnormal results, scheduling additional imaging examinations, and sending patients for surgical consultation.

2018: The Together We Fight collaborative coordinates many local events for maximum impact

The Together We Fight collaborative includes community events and fundraisers such as Tanger Outlets PINK campaign, Doc’s Rocks Mining for a Purpose, Pink Day at ARHS, CrossFit event Kilograms for Mammograms, and the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation’s Walk/Run for Breast Cancer.

2018: Hidden Scar® Breast Cancer Surgery is introduced at Watauga Medical Center

Hidden Scar is an advanced surgical technique used to hide the scars of cancer surgery as best as possible with an oncoplastic approach. If surgery is recommended to remove breast cancer, patients can take comfort in the fact that Watauga Medical Center is one of only a few hospitals in North Carolina to offer Hidden Scar® Breast Cancer Surgery. Both Dr. Anne-Corinne Beaver and Dr. Paul Dagher of Watauga Surgical Group have been recognized as Hidden Scar® Trained Surgeons for Hidden Scar® Breast Cancer Surgery.

2018: Progressive Anesthesia is performed for Breast Cancer Surgery at Watauga Medical Center

The Anesthesia team at Watauga Medical Center began routinely performing ultrasound-guided pectoralis muscle blocks for better pain control during and after surgery. This allows less inhalational agents and less opioid pain medicines to be used, which is believed to improve outcomes— especially for cancer patients.

2019: Breast MRI is used for advanced diagnostics

Breast MRI provides advanced diagnostics for detecting breast cancer, other breast abnormalities, or routine breast screening. This is another important tool in detecting breast cancer early and accurately.

2019: Paxman Scalp Cooling technology available

Thanks to generous donors, Paxman scalp cooling is available to qualifying patients receiving chemotherapy treatments for solid tumor cancer. It helps to prevent hair-loss caused by certain chemotherapy drugs. The goal is to help patients look and feel their best while fighting a difficult battle.

Photo: Dr. Beaver with Paxman

Dr. Anne-Corinne Beaver, a beloved physician and general/breast surgeon at Watauga Surgical Group, learned first-hand that cancer does not discriminate when she was diagnosed with the disease in November of 2017. With experience on both sides of the treatment, she has developed even more of a passion to see advanced breast cancer care in the High Country.

“I can testify as both a surgeon and as a survivor that this community is All In when it comes to fighting breast cancer,” said Dr. Beaver. “I chose to stay close to home for my breast cancer treatment because I know just how good the treatment services are right here in this community.”

Wilma Redmond Breast Center

1200 State Farm Road
Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 268-9037
Fax: (828) 268-9484
Visit website

Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center

Monday-Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm
336 Deerfield Road
Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 262-4332
Visit Website

Summer Health and Safety (with infographic)

Summer Health and Safety (with infographic)

With the summer season in full swing, most of us want to find as many reasons as we can to spend time outside. More time spent outside though can often mean more risk to our health and wellbeing. Avoid any possible trouble this season by safely preparing for the most common summertime health risks. 

 

Heat

 

In 2017, the National Safety Council reported that excessive heat exposure was the third leading cause of death due to weather related events. When experiencing excessive heat or heat stroke, symptoms aren’t always obvious. It is important to check in with yourself and others if you feel you may be at risk. 

Signs of a heat stroke or overexposure can include rapid breathing, headaches, dizziness, confusion, irrational behavior, convulsions, unresponsiveness, or a temperature above 103 degrees. Sweating usually stops and is replaced by skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch. 

Take immediate action if you or anyone you are with is experiencing signs of a heat stroke or overexposure. Call 911 right away then move the victim to a cool place. Remove unnecessary clothing and cool the victim by immersing their body up to the neck in cold water. If complete immersion isn’t possible, place the victim in a cold shower or cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels. Keep cooling until the victim’s body temperature drops to 101 degrees. Continue to monitor the victim’s breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed. 

People who have more risk of experiencing heat stroke include infants and young children, people ages 65 and older, individuals who are overweight, and people who are ill, have chronic health conditions or are on certain medications. 

 

Each poison ivy leaf has three leaflets with either smooth or notched edges.

Poison Ivy Dermatitis 

 

Many people can agree that at some point in their life they have experienced or have come close to experiencing the effects of physical contact with poison ivy. According to Makisha Stamper, Practice Manager at AppUrgent Care, poison ivy dermatitis is the most common reason patients visit during the summer months. 

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Poison ivy dermatitis is easier to prevent than it is to treat. Recognizing and avoiding urushiol, poison ivy sap oil, is the most effective way to reduce the risk of coming into contact. It is important to avoid direct contact with the plant, indirect contact such as touching clothing or objects with urushiol on them, and inhalation of particles if the plant is being burned. If you are exposed to poison ivy, immediately wash skin using antibacterials and lots of water. Be sure to also remove and wash all clothing that may have been exposed. 

Symptoms of poison ivy dermatitis can include a red rash, swelling, itching, bumps, patches, streaking or weeping blisters. Severe itching can be relieved by applying wet compresses, using calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, taking oatmeal baths, or using an antihistamine. In severe cases or if the rash is on the face or genitals, seek professional medical attention.  

 

Bugs

 

When participating in outdoor activities this summer, insect repellent is something to always have with you. Various bugs, especially ticks and mosquitoes, can carry and spread diseases that can have lasting consequences. 

Depending on your location, mosquitoes can carry diseases such as the West Nile Virus, dengue, Zika, and malaria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these illnesses can have severe consequences such as body aches, rash, fever, and even death. The CDC suggests using insect repellent, covering exposed skin, and avoiding bugs where you are staying in order to prevent mosquito bites. 

Diseases caused by ticks are most often found in people returning from an outdoor activity. Although there is no vaccine in the United States to prevent illnesses spread by ticks, there are steps you can take to prevent the risk of being bitten. The CDC suggests people dress appropriately, use insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET, treat clothing and gear in permethrin, and stay out of heavily wooded areas. Be sure to check your body for ticks after each outdoor adventure. 

 

Travel

 

During the summer months, there is in increase in the number of ATV, biking, horseback riding, motorcycle and car accidents according to Cindy Hinshaw, RN, Director of Emergency Services for Watauga Medical Center and Canon Memorial Hospital. When traveling or riding this summer, be sure to wear a helmet and appropriate gear, follow traffic rules, drive or ride defensively, be well rested and don’t drive or ride while impaired. 

 

Swimming

 

Whether going for a swim in a pool or a nearby river, it is important to understand how to protect yourself and avoid injuries. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children ages 1-4 years old. In order to avoid any water related accidents, there are ten rules every swimmer should follow. 

  1. Learn to swim. 
  2. Swim with a friend. 
  3. Know your limits. 
  4. Swim in supervised areas only. 
  5. Wear a life jacket when boating. 
  6. Stay alert to currents. 
  7. Keep an eye on the weather. 
  8. Don’t play roughly while in the water. 
  9. Don’t dive into shallow water. 
  10. Don’t float where you can’t swim. 

When swimming outdoors, it is very important to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn or skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, swimmers should apply a Broad Spectrum Water Resistant SPF of 30 or higher 30 minutes before getting in the water. Reapply every two hours after swimming or sweating.  

As always, if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room. For emergencies that are non-life threatening, visit AppUrgent Care or Baker Center Same-Day Clinic. Happy Summer!

Click to download or print the infographic ▶︎

Infographic: Summer Health & Safety