YVMC: Breast cancer care available close to home

Although one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, Yampa Valley Medical Center Cancer Services Director Jan Fritz has a message of hope.

“The promising news is that a woman’s chance of surviving breast cancer is greatly improved with early detection and treatment,” Fritz said. “It may also be comforting to know that most treatment options are available close to home.”

A certified oncology nurse, Fritz has been providing cancer treatments, education and resources for individuals and families in northwest Colorado since 1990. She outlined the following services that are available at YVMC:

Digital mammography. Annual screening mammograms are recommended for women age 40 or above, or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer. Digital mammography is also used for diagnostic exams that a healthcare provider may order.

Ultrasound exams. These are utilized as a follow-up to a mammogram if more images are requested by a physician.

Pathology. An accurate diagnosis determines the type and size (or “stage”) of the tumor, which is key to developing individualized treatment plans. YVMC pathologists are Drs. Bill Cox and Greg Achenbach.

Oncology. Medical oncologists Drs. Allen Cohn and Robert Rifkin see patients at YVMC four days per month. They recommend treatment and provide medical management throughout a patient’s course of treatment.

Tumor Board. Cancer specialists gather monthly at YVMC to review cases that have been diagnosed or treated here in the Yampa Valley.

Infusion chemotherapy. Intravenous medication is provided in YVMC’s Infusion/Chemotherapy Center by oncology nurses.

Surgery. General surgeons Drs. Allen Belshaw and Mark Hermacinski perform lumpectomies and mastectomies at YVMC.

Reconstructive surgery. The newest member of the YVMC cancer team is Dr. Lisa Hunsicker, who specializes in restoring breast shape and appearance immediately following mastectomy for women who choose this option.

Genetic counseling. Some families who have multiple cases of breast cancer may seek genetic counseling and/or genetic testing. These services are offered by Barbara Hamlington, MS, who makes quarterly visits to YVMC.

Lymphedema treatment. YVMC has three certified lymphedema therapists – Susan Ring, Jodi Bringuel and Kim Miles. They can treat this common side effect of breast cancer surgery and help patients achieve optimal mobility and function.

Cancer rehabilitation. Certified cancer exercise therapists Jodi Bringuel and Mary Beth Strotbeck work with patients to restore physical strength following surgery or other cancer treatment.

Integrated Health. This YVMC program provides numerous services for breast cancer patients, including acupuncture for pain relief, individual and group counseling, massage therapy and nutrition advice.

Education. Fritz believes that knowledge is a necessary component of cancer care. YVMC Cancer Care Services publishes a free monthly newsletter for patients and families; call 970-870-1047 for more information.

Research. YVMC’s Community Health Resource Center is a lending library that provides free research on any health topic, including breast cancer. Experienced volunteers search for medical information; requests can be made by calling 970-870-1173 or emailing resource@yvmc.org.

Patient Navigation. Cancer care is often described as a complex maze. Navigation assists patients and families in maneuvering through cancer treatment, connecting them to resources, community support or other healthcare agencies.

For example, breast cancer patients must leave the Yampa Valley when they require services such as breast MRI or radiation therapy, which are not available here. Women’s Imaging Coordinator Julie Isaacs and Jan Fritz coordinate care and communication with other cancer centers.

“We actively participate with regional and national cancer centers and health care providers,” Fritz said. “We can tell patients what to expect, help them get there with appropriate medical records and welcome them back to continue their care here.”

For more information about YVMC services related to breast cancer, contact Fritz at 970-871-2464 or janet.fritz@yvmc.org.

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center

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