Your Guide to Breast Health

MCMC creates a new position to help women clear obstacles in the way of optimal breast health.

While the mammogram is still considered the best tool for diagnosing breast cancer at it earliest stages, many women still avoid getting theirs because they fear the results. Alida Raynor is out to change that reality – at least in the Mid-Columbia region. Raynor, 32, is the new breast navigator for MCMC’s Mammography Department.

The licensed practical nurse joined the staff in March, after moving from Seattle, where she worked at a breast surgery clinic. Her job is two-fold: She seeks women who need mammograms and helps them find a way to pay for them if they need help, and also educates women about mammograms and biopsies.

Alida Raynor, Breast Navigator

Alida Raynor, Breast Navigator

In her outreach role for MCMC’s Breast Health for Strong Families program, Raynor discusses breast health, including breast cancer risks, prevention, self-care and clinical exams. She explains why mammograms are necessary beyond age 40 and lets women know what they can expect.

“One in every eight women is going to get breast cancer; one out of 36 will die from it,” Raynor says. “If we detect their breast cancer at stage zero, before it becomes invasive, the five-year survival rate is 100 percent.”

Raynor doesn’t just preach the advantages of mammograms. She does everything she can to get women to MCMC for annual screenings. That includes providing vouchers for free mammograms and transportation assistance for those who qualify.

Raynor’s other role is one of support for women whose doctors have ordered a magnification view, ultrasound or a biopsy following a screening mammogram. That’s when worries, uncertainty and questions often arise. She finds it can be helpful to let women express their fears, so she can offer explanations as well as hope.

“We place a lot of emphasis on the person as a whole,” Raynor says. “By employing people here who address the emotional concerns of our patients and help them understand what the next step is, instead of just scheduling it, this becomes a good place for the patients to come and it makes it a great place to work.”

As a breast navigator, Raynor looks over the radiologist’s report and explains it to the patient.

“I have a good conversation with them before the biopsy, if one is required,” she says. She describes how the procedure will work and what to expect. She lets them know she will call them after the biopsy to ask about the experience and answer any more questions they may have.

If a pathology report shows signs of cancer, Raynor delivers that news to the patient’s doctor and provides the patient information to Melodi Johnson, the breast cancer nurse navigator for Celilo Cancer Center at MCMC. Johnson, a registered nurse, then talks to women about their treatment options and offers support through the next steps.

She translates complicated medical terminology to make sure her patients understand their diagnoses.

Providing comfort to patients through the two nurse navigators — one before diagnosis and one after — is among the goals of The Breast Center at MCMC.

The center offers a compassionate, multidisciplinary approach that addresses the spectrum of breast health concerns, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

The Breast Center is a collaboration of providers, involving MCMC’s departments of Radiology and Pathology, Celilo Surgical and Celilo Cancer Center. It is one of only eight centers in the state accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.

In addition to traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and medication, the center also offers access to an array of integrated therapies, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, massage therapy, yoga and spa as well as a meditation room, labyrinth and spiritual care.

Regardless of whether a woman is seeking her first mammogram or her 15th, is undergoing chemotherapy or getting breast reconstructive surgery, MCMC strives to make her feel confident about the care she is receiving.

A good day on the job for Raynor is when she’s persuaded a busy, working mother who’s over 40 years old to take the time to get a mammogram. Maybe she’s provided her a gas card so she can drive to the hospital or she’s found funding for the screening, whether it’s the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon Breast & Cervical Cancer Program or a Health for Strong Families voucher.

Since starting her position, Raynor has been responsible for 18 women getting mammograms who otherwise wouldn’t have. And the Breast Health for Strong Families vouchers, which are funded by community donations, have led to cancer being detected five times in Columbia Gorge residents.

“If this position is able to detect cancer in a few people a year, that is completely worth it to me,” Raynor says, “because that may save lives.”

VIDEO BELOW: One of our Breast Health for Strong Families voucher recipients shares her story.

Need Help Getting a Mammogram?

Whether a woman needs transportation or financial help, MCMC’s Breast Health for Strong Families can provide assistance.

To qualify for a free mammogram you must meet the following requirements:

  • Between the ages of 40 and 64*
  • Be uninsured or have high deductible for your insurance
  • Live in Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, Skamania, Hood River or Klickitat counties
  • Meet income guidelines

*Women who are at high-risk for breast cancer and do not fall in this age guideline may qualify for a free mammogram.

For more information or to apply, contact: Alida Raynor, breast navigator of mammography services 541.506.6418. Alida is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese.