As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month returns this October, various health agencies throughout North Snohomish County are reminding women of their diagnosis and treatment options, to help them identify and respond to cases of breast cancer in time to save lives.
Everett Clinic at Smokey Point
Liz DeGraw works in the mammography department at the Everett Clinic’s Smokey Point branch which provides screening and mammography services.
DeGraw expressed pride in the Smokey Point Everett Clinic’s modern mammography machines, whose state-of-the-art digital displays offer high-resolution detail.
“The technology is so superior that we can find it before you even feel it,” DeGraw said. “You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that we’re detecting it at its earliest stages.”
DeGraw acknowledged that there’s currently a difference of opinion between the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on the frequency with which mammographies should be conducted.
“The ACS recommends starting yearly mammograms at the age of 40 and continuing them as long as you’re healthy, while the USPSTF recommends waiting until 50 to have mammograms done every two years until you’re 74, although they do say you can start as early as 40 if you discuss the risks with a doctor,” DeGraw said. “It’s up to the patient to talk with their primary care providers, although most insurance will cover yearly mammograms.”
The Everett Clinic also recently welcomed breast and endocrine surgeon Dr. Steve R. Martinez to their cancer care team. He came from the University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he was an associate professor of surgical oncology.
“His training and experience allow Dr. Martinez to offer his patients the most advanced and minimally-invasive procedures in breast surgery,” said Michele Graves, marketing and PR specialist for the Everett Clinic “He incorporates several advanced techniques into his practice, including the use of the sentinel lymph node biopsy, skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy, and onco-plastic lumpectomy for breast cancer. He originally earned his Medical Degree at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and we’re fortunate to have him back in our area and in Snohomish County.”
The Everett Clinic at Smokey Point is located at 2901 174th St. NE and can be called at 360-454-1900. For more information, log onto www.everettclinic.com.
Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington
Staff members of Cascade Valley Hospital expressed pride in their broad scope of screening and diagnostic services, including not only standard mammograms and breast ultrasounds, but also galactograms and biopsies.
“Some days we’re able to schedule biopsies on the same day,” said Jacqueline Johnson, imaging director for Cascade Valley Hospital, who also noted the hospital’s radiology services. “We’re usually able to get them in within the week.”
Like DeGraw, Johnson described her technology as top-notch and complimented her coworkers for providing a personalized, almost familial feel to their services, which in the case of Cascade Valley Hospital includes Wednesday night mammograms throughout the month of October. These weekly events during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month have even included massage sessions and special surprise gifts for the final patients of each evening.
Tammy Leboeuf, one of the hospital’s radiologic technologists, touted the staff’s commitment to making admittedly uncomfortable mammography exams as comfortable as possible.
“A lot of people are afraid of the radiation, but it’s very minimal, especially when weighed against the benefits of early detection,” Leboeuf said. “It shouldn’t hurt, though.”
“Everyone’s experience is slightly different, because we all have slightly different anatomy, but there shouldn’t be any pain,” Johnson agreed. “Patients should still feel some compression, because as I tell my own patients, if you’re not feeling some compression, then we’re not doing our jobs.”
The compression is necessary to scan through the breast, and minimizes the amount of tissue that’s exposed to radiation, but Leboeuf estimated that the average mammography exam only takes 20 minutes. Just as DeGraw advised patients to try and schedule their appointments after their menstrual cycles, so that their breasts will be less tender, so too did Johnson warn patients against wearing any creams, deodorants or powders to their exams that could create false positives.
Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington is located at 330 S. Stillaguamish Ave. and can be called at 360-435-2133, or 360-435-0515 to schedule an appointment. For more information, log onto www.cascadevalley.org.
Cascade Skagit Health Alliance in Arlington
Cascade Valley Hospital and the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance in Arlington each offer their own MRI, but the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance also serves as the site for the Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center.
“We can do chemo, lab draws, MRIs and X-rays,” said Linda Harrison, unit assistant for the Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center at the Cascade Skagit Health Alliance. “For radiation and PET scans, we usually send people to Mount Vernon, but we’re all connected to the same doctors here.”
Harrison noted that on-site pharmacists such as Hau Dong mix the chemotherapy drugs just down the hall from where the patients receive their treatments.
Barb Jensen, director of oncology for the Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center, noted a number of other services that have been added on-site over the course of the past year, including a financial advocate for uninsured and underinsured patients, as well as the ability for patients to participate in clinical trials.
“We have social services staff who will work with you to figure out how to pay your bills, and even aid you in filling out the forms,” Jensen said. “We don’t want our patients to be worried about being financially ruined, or passing debts onto their families, as a result of undergoing treatment, because that can obviously affect the outcome of the treatment itself.”
The Cascade Skagit Health Alliance in Arlington is located at 3823 172nd St. NE and can be called at 360-618-5000. For more information, log onto www.cascadeskagithealth.org.