As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, let’s take a moment to highlight the ways in which health systems like WellStar Health System – one of the largest and most integrated health systems in the state of Georgia – are advancing the fight against breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death among women, with about 40,000 annual deaths and another 207,000 new cases being diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Fortunately, breast cancer is curable in early stages, with a nearly 95 percent five-year survival rate.
Beating cancer takes a community and WellStar’s comprehensive cancer program combines the convenience of community-based, world-renowned oncologists with the most technologically advanced treatment available. Every day, WellStar’s Cancer Network provides tailored, easily accessible care, in which patients can best navigate their cancer diagnosis physically, emotionally and spiritually with the most advanced cancer treatments available. The wealth of supportive services and resources WellStar offers patients and families throughout Greater Atlanta includes but is not limited to:
Breast Cancer Screenings/3D Mammograms
Clinically proven to provide more accurate breast cancer screenings, WellStar offers 3D mammograms, which present a series of detailed images of the breast, allowing doctors to better evaluate tissue layer by layer. This service extends far beyond traditional mammograms, which provide 2D images of the breast and can sometimes produce unclear results, false alarms or worse: undetected signs of cancer.
“A good analogy to compare 3D and 2D mammograms is thinking of the pages in a book,” says Dr. Michael Andrews, Chief Cancer Officer of WellStar Health System. “If you just look down at the cover, you won’t be able to see all of the pages inside. But when you open it up, you can flip through page-by-page to see everything from cover to cover. 3D screenings result in greater accuracy in pinpointing the size and location of a tumor, helping us reach a faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.”
While chemotherapy is the most commonly known treatment plan to kill cancer cells, WellStar offers several treatment options through systemic targeted therapies, which pinpoint a cancer’s specific genes, proteins and the tissue environment that contributes to its growth and survival.
“Targeted therapy has made a huge impact on treating metastatic breast cancer. A former patient of mine suffered from this kind of cancer, which had spread throughout her lungs and liver. Typically, that’s when I have to deliver every doctor’s most dreaded news about short life expectancy,” said Dr. Andrews. “However, thanks to our advanced screening methods, we learned she was HER2 positive and I was able to quickly begin treating her with targeted therapy drugs and chemotherapy. Now, 10 years later, she is cancer-free.”
WellStar strongly believes that successful clinical research programs can benefit patients, physicians and the entire field of medicine. Today, more than 80 WellStar physicians are involved in clinical trials with over 200 patients enrolled annually. Thanks to cutting-edge clinical trials, new immunotherapies are being approved to treat various forms of breast cancer.
Comprehensive Support Network
WellStar offers a full line of services and support to cancer patients and their families, including breast cancer navigators to guide patients through their unique treatment programs as well as a plethora of resources including social workers to assist with the financial challenges of treatment; nutritionists to ensure patients are receiving proper nourishment throughout treatment and recovery; and counselors and support groups to console and empower patients through their journey to survival.
“WellStar has been a pioneer in breast cancer treatment for years and is always on the cusp of new methods to advance our mission of ending breast cancer,” said Dr. Andrews. “From your first consultation with a physician through treatment and beyond, we are there for you right in your backyard every step of the way.”