If you are a female patient at City of Hope, you can now get your annual breast cancer screening at the Duarte campus, no matter what type of cancer or what disease you’re being treated for.
“You can schedule your mammogram for a day when you’re already here. It’s like a one-stop shop, so you don’t have to make an extra trip,” said Brittany Bradford, M.S.N., N.P., the Survivorship Program nurse practitioner, who spearheaded the new program. “Then you can get your results in a telehealth appointment and will only have to come in if followup is needed.”
In addition to the convenience of having your mammogram here, there are other benefits as well.
“One big advantage is that we have radiologists who are specialists in reading mammograms,” she said. “Another is that if there are any abnormalities, you are right here and can quickly and easily be referred to one or our breast oncologists.”
Who Should Be Screened
City of Hope recommends breast screening for all female patients starting at age 40 — but younger women with a family history of breast cancer can discuss with their doctor when screening should begin. And while many guidelines recommend mammograms every two years, women who have had any type of cancer should be screened every year.
Be aware, too, that some cancer patients are at higher risk for breast cancer than others. This includes those who have had radiation to the chest wall area, as well as those with certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA 1 and 2, that can predispose people to both pancreatic and breast cancer.
“City of Hope also has a robust genetics testing program,” said Bradford, “which is especially important if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis and have a family member with a genetic mutation.”
Breast cancer can also occur in men. Though it is rare, male patients with a family history of breast cancer — or a genetic mutation that predisposes them to the disease — can also be screened.
Why This Change?
As part of her work with the Survivorship Program — which provides a multitude of services to support people in their post-treatment life — Bradford reaches out to patients to make sure they’re up-to-date with screenings.
Screening — especially for secondary cancers — is an important part of survivorship. And breast cancer screening is particularly important because it is the most common cancer and the second-leading cause of death among American women.
A while ago, she had gotten in touch with a group of hematology patients and discovered that about 30% of them hadn’t had a mammogram in a very long time.
“I was shocked at how many non–breast cancer patients hadn’t had a mammogram in five or six years, and quite a few had never had one,” she said. “But I think a lot of patients are so focused on surviving, on getting through their chemo, their surgery, and so forth, that they forget about picking up the pieces and screening for other cancers.”
Covid is another reason many women skipped their screenings.
“I had a patient the other day who was a breast cancer survivor and had missed her mammogram for 2020 because of the pandemic. She finally had one, and it came back abnormal,” said Bradford. “She was kicking herself, of course, because delaying your mammogram even a year, particularly if you’re a breast cancer survivor, can have a serious outcome.”
The woman came back in for a biopsy and, fortunately, got the best possible news. The nodules were benign, and she’ll follow up with additional imaging in six months.
Physicians are encouraged to refer their patients for screening, and there are two ways to do it. Using the EpicCare system, you can choose, “Ambulatory referral for breast screening clinic,” or you can send an email directly to email@example.com.
Patients can take the initiative, too, and email the above address or ask their doctor for a referral.
Bradford is gratified to see how many people have already benefited from this new program.
“One woman never had any cancer screenings at all — no mammogram, no Pap smear, no colonoscopy — and now she’s getting them all done here. She was so thrilled that we had reached out to her, and she felt like, wow, City of Hope is really taking care of me.”