October 10, 2021
Hearing the phrase “you have breast cancer” can send multiple emotions through a patient’s mind in a matter of minutes.
But at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, it doesn’t have to be a scary journey. From diagnosis to treatment, patients are not alone when going through the journey to survivorship.
“We have the best team and technology to diagnose and treat any type of cancer,” said Paul Korth, CRMC CEO. “Our team is dedicated to quality treatment and service, close to home.”
Self-screening is essential when it comes to early detection. The most common symptom of breast cancer is the presence of a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft or round and painful.
Other symptoms include swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no lump is felt), skin dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel), breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened, nipple discharge (other than breast milk) and swollen lymph nodes.
The most commonly used screening method is a mammogram, a low dose X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older.
However, those with family history are recommended to get screenings earlier than 40.
If the radiologist who reads the mammogram finds something suspicious, the patient will be sent for further testing, such as a biopsy where a tissue sample is sent to a lab, which will determine what type of cancer it is.
Other screening options are ultrasound and breast MRI, both available at the Women’s Center.
CRMC also has genetic testing, a proactive approach to cancer detection.
“Genetic testing has come a long way in the capabilities and affordability,” said Ashley Cohen, genetic counselor. “The benefit is to better understand what the risk may be and reducing that risk of cancer.”
All that is needed from the patient is a blood sample or saliva sample.
“This type of information can also have an impact on treatment,” Cohen said. “If it’s hereditary, this type of information can help determine if more in-depth surgery is needed. It gives the patient control over how their cancer will be treated.”
Anyone with personal or family history of cancer diagnosed at less than 50 years of age, has the same type of cancer in multiple relatives on the same side of the family, has a strong family history of multiple types of cancers, a personal history of greater than 10 colon polyps, a personal family history of rare cancers (ovarian, stomach, pancreatic, kidney cancers, etc.) or a personal or family history of a genetic mutation already detected by prior genetic testing should consider having a genetics test done.
Once a biopsy is scheduled, Amy Ayers, CRMC breast health navigator, connects with the patient.
“I sit down with the patient and talk about a plan of care, assist in scheduling any appointments, and answer any questions they may have,” she said.
Ayers is with the patient every step of the way, through diagnosis to surgery and following treatment.
“Their treatment can be from 6 months to a year,” she said. “I am with them every step of the way as a resource and a person to get answers.”
The odds of surviving breast cancer are high – if caught early. And one way to do that is to “know your normal.”
“If there is something different about your breasts, get it checked,” she said. “I have extreme confidence you will get the same treatment here as you would in the bigger facilities.”
To hear more about what Ayers does as the breast health navigator, watch her video at https://youtu.be/ZkGAtJOM0i4.
For more information about the Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, visit crmchealth.org/cancer.
Follow CRMC on social media to see more survivor stories.