WHAT IS A NURSE NAVIGATOR?

Our nurse navigator helps patients “navigate” through their breast cancer treatment. She is at the center of the patient’s breast cancer care by coordinating schedules and appointments, as well as acting as a liaison, an advocate, and a point of contact for patients and their families. She also serves as a consistent caregiver throughout patients’ breast cancer journey by providing resources, support, and assisting in any patient’s needs during this difficult time.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM HIGH RISK TO DEVELOP BREAST CANCER?

There are several risk factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. These include atypical changes on a previous breast biopsy, high doses of radiation to the chest (such as to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma), a strong family history of cancer, or a known genetic mutation in the patient or family members.

We encourage patients to start to understand their risk by gathering as much family history from both their mother’s and father’s sides including all types of cancer. If there are a significant number of individuals with cancer on one side of the family, or you have had any of the other risk factors listed, then we invite you to schedule an appointment for a formal risk assessment to find out what is available to help you prevent breast cancer or detect it very early.

SHOULD I HAVE GENETIC TESTING PERFORMED TO SEE IF I HAVE THE BREAST CANCER MUTATION?

Only about 5-10 percent of all breast cancer is considered to be hereditary or due to a gene mutation. Most breast cancers are sporadic, meaning they are due to other causes such as aging, the environment, or lifestyle. There are several risk factors based on family history that may indicate hereditary breast cancer in your family. Genetic counseling and testing are available to you to find out if there is an inherited gene mutation that can predispose you to developing breast and other cancers. We are happy to discuss your family history and determine if genetic testing is appropriate for you.

I HAVE BEEN TOLD I HAVE DENSE BREASTS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more glandular tissue compared to breasts that aren’t dense. One way to measure breast density is the thickness of tissue on a mammogram. Dense breast tissue can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer; breast cancers are easier to see on a mammogram when they’re surrounded by fatty tissue rather than glandular tissue. If you have dense breasts we can offer other imaging modalities that may be more effective in detecting cancer earlier as well as offer lifestyle modifications to help reduce your risk of developing cancer.