Thoroughly Impressive

A recent accreditation survey demonstrates once again that MCMC’s Breast Care Center is a truly unique and comprehensive education, support and care resource for area women.

Overheard recently in a parking lot at Mid-Columbia Medical Center was one side of a phone conversation during which a distinguished gentleman was enthusiastically describing to the recipient of his call how impressed he was with the program he had just thoroughly reviewed.

The man praising the care team, facilities and quality of care being provided was Dr. Larry D. Dillon, from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers for the Commission on Cancer. On the listening end was his home office in Chicago. The program he was raving about? The unique Breast Care Center at MCMC.

Not long after that conversation, the Breast Care Center received its three-year re-accreditation, demonstrating MCMC meets or exceeds the national organization’s highest standards for breast care centers.

It wasn’t the first for the program. In fact, in 2010 MCMC became the first hospital in Oregon with a nationally accredited Breast Care Center, which also earned re-accreditation in 2013.

“Getting the accreditation is really rare; it’s an arduous process,” said Dr. Kerry Proctor, medical director of the program at MCMC. “We’re one of only seven hospitals in the state that have it.”

Accreditation puts the Breast Care Center at MCMC on par with hospitals in larger cities in the state, such as Portland, Salem, and Bend. “Accreditation is an indication that you can come here and receive a standard of care that is on the same level of other accredited centers, whether you are in Toledo or Austin or Los Angeles or New York or The Dalles,” Dr. Proctor added.

MCMC’s program offers a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to breast health. By integrating screening, early diagnosis, patient advocacy, and treatment,the Breast Care Center offers important resources for women along the entire health spectrum.

“We are here for all women, those with both benign and malignant breast disease as well as healthy women; education and preventive care is a large component of what we do,” said Dr. Proctor.

The Center for Breast Care is “not a place,” adds Dr. Proctor, “but is 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 encompasses the hospital’s imaging department and educational programs, and it involves radiologists, pathologists, and surgeons in addition to medical and radiation oncologists.”

The Breast Care Center strives to offer women throughout the Mid-Columbia all the care and services they need without having to leave their hometown.

Notes from Dr. Dillon’s survey indicate that mission is being accomplished: “I would strongly encourage the NAPBC to recognize that we have a relatively small institution in a city that is very small but has the expertise and commitment to deliver excellent medical and surgical care to patients with breast disease,” the physician wrote.

“Throughout the survey he did repeat many times that we are on par with the big guys,” added Symantha McClennan, data management specialist and clinical trials associate at Celilo Cancer Center. “He was impressed with the caliber of our physicians, with the caliber of various people we have involved in the program, and the quality of medicine we are able to provide to our patients out here in what some people, especially outsiders, consider the middle of nowhere.”

Breast centers receive accreditation by demonstrating they “meet the needs of breast patients by providing multidisciplinary, high-quality, patient-centered care,” —more specifically by adhering to a 78-page NAPBC Standards Manual. The standards cover a variety of areas, including leadership, clinical, research, community, and education. The range of clinical standards covers everything from what procedures are performed, to how reports are written, to what personnel are on staff.

Preparing for the re-accreditation process is difficult and ongoing, as industry standards are constantly changing. Every year, MCMC’s Breast Care Center receives a revised standards manual and must make necessary changes in order to maintain accreditation. “It’s an evolving game. They twist the screws tighter all the time, but in a good way,” said Dr. Proctor. “The goal is to make this be top-quality care, so we are on par with anything in the country; we’re not just squirreled away in the Gorge doing 1950s medicine.”

Despite the difficulty, MCMC passed re-accreditation without a hitch — with no deficiencies on the report.

At the core of the Breast Care Center is a high standard of care and dedication to patients. “We really do take them from mammograms and initial diagnosis all the way through to the survivorship part (for patients diagnosed with breast cancer),” said McClennan.

Assisting in the process are two “nurse navigators” who hold patients’ hands —figuratively and, at times, literally —throughout their entire process, discussing options, answering “what ifs,” and providing moral support.

Patients benefit from an array of unique services and specialty care. All of the Breast Care Center’s mammography technicians and sonographers have received specialized breast imaging certifications. The team’s board-certified staff of radiologists includes the only physician in the Gorge with specialized fellowship training in breast imaging, Andrew Boyer, M.D..

In addition, breast surgeon Caitlin McCarthy, M.D., is currently pursuing advanced certification in breast imaging, biopsy, and partial radiation.

MCMC offers patients access to estheticians and wig designers, and the team is working to provide patients with access to a local prosthetics designer and seamstress. Vouchers also enable patients to access services at Water’s Edge Spa.

If cost is an issue, vouchers are available for free mammograms, and Celilo House is a cost-free resource for people who need a place to stay while undergoing treatment.

The Breast Care Center team strives to provide care tailored to each individual. “No two patients are alike,” added Dr. Proctor. “Some people want yoga and spa and some people want absolutely the most aggressive treatment possible. You can get whatever you want, because we have it all.”

Outreach teams are also actively working in the community. “One of the (NAPBC) standards is that the breast center reaches out into the community to try to serve underserved populations, whether they are patients who have no financial means to get a mammogram, or are just too scared or too busy,” Dr. Proctor said.

Dr. Dillon recognized the community outreach program as “a strong complement to this medical community, which does not have the resources that many larger institutions (possess).”

Education is also an important component of the program. On Oct. 4 at 7 p.m., members of the Breast Care Center team will lead will a lecture at Water’s Edge for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A panel including Drs. McCarthy and Proctor will be speaking about steps that can be taken to help prevent cancer (see the Well Aware calendar).