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Breast Care Center at Mid-Columbia Medical Center

MCMC becomes the only hospital in Oregon accredited for its comprehensive and collaborative Center for Breast Care.
Published on 5/22/2011
Author: Dick Baltus
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MCMC has become the only hospital in Oregon, and just the third on the West Coast, to earn national accreditation for its Breast Care Center.

MCMC's new Breast Care Center was surveyed in late September by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), whose chairman, David Winchester, M.D., remarked afterward:

“There is no reason why any patient receiving any kind of breast care would need to go to any other institution; the best of care is available right here at MCMC."

MCMC’s Breast Care Center is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to breast health and care that utilizes services, expertise and resources throughout MCMC and in collaboration with Mid-Columbia Surgical Specialists. By integrating screening, early diagnosis, patient advocacy and treatment, MCMC’s Breast Care Center offers important resources for women along the entire health spectrum.

"We are here for all women – those with both benign breast disease, those with malignant breast disease and healthy women as well,” said surgeon Ann Harris, M.D., of Mid-Columbia Surgical Specialists. “This is a comprehensive breast center, not just a breast cancer center."

One out of eight women who undergo biopsies has cancer, Dr. Harris said. “That means seven out of eight do not. Benign breast disease is much more prevalent and much less cared for, but just as important to treat as malignant breast disease.  Our center is here to help women with all their breast-related issues.”

The Breast Care Center is “not a place,” Dr. Harris added, but a collaboration of physicians, other health professionals and staff and an understanding of how women should be cared for in an organized and efficient manner.

“It is a collaboration between Celilo Cancer Center,  Mid-Columbia Surgical Specialists and MCMC's radiology, pathology, rehab and educational departments. It involves radiologists, pathologists, breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, physical/occupational therapists, a nurse coordinator, nursing staff, social work and administration.  It is truly comprehensive and collaborative."

Dr. Harris directs the center and led the effort to pull together existing services and health professionals at the hospital into a coordinated continuum of care that could past the stringent requirements for NAPBC’s accreditation.

She said that, just like women with breast cancer, those with benign breast disease have significant needs, and often don't know where to turn.

"There is a large population of women with benign breast disease who think they have cancer; that’s just the woman’s psyche," Dr. Harris said. "Those women need support and education and to know exactly what their options are, and in a lot of facilities they don’t get it."

NAPBC-accredited centers must offer a complete range of state-of-the-art services and equipment; a multidisciplinary team approach to coordinating the best available treatment options; information about ongoing cancer clinical trials and new treatment options; access to prevention and early detection programs, cancer education, and support services; and ongoing monitoring and improvements in cancer care.

MCMC meets these requirements in many ways, including:

  • Providing access to state-of-the-art screening and diagnostic tools, including digital mammography and stereotactic breast biopsy, as well as advanced treatment options, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy and brachytherapy;

  • Devoting a full-time breast care coordinator to help newly diagnosed breast cancer patients navigate through their options and available resources;

  • Serving as a center for clinical research to investigate promising new options for treating breast cancer;

  • Offering access to highly trained specialists in medical oncology, radiation therapy and breast cancer surgery.

MCMC now offers access to one of only 80 accredited breast health centers in the United States. MCMC is the smallest facility to achieve accreditation. Dr. Harris hopes the significance of this accomplishment is not lost on women throughout the Gorge, especially those diagnosed with breast cancer.

"A lot of women who are diagnosed feel they have to go to a major center to get their care," she said. "But this accreditation signifies that we are giving the exact same level of care, if not higher, right here. There is no reason to go anywhere else."

Dr. Winchester echoed her sentiment.  

"Women in this area are most fortunate to have access to this excellent program," he added. "This institution knows what it is doing, and the people who work here know what they are doing."

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