Rebecca Robinson, Breast Health Program Patient

Rebecca Robinson - Farwell, MI

"Do what you need to do; get the testing done and follow through so that nothing gets missed."

Closer Monitoring for Higher Risk May Improve Early Detection

Rebecca Robinson is considered to be at a higher-than-average risk for developing breast cancer. "My dad's sister died of breast cancer in her early 40's. My mom had breast cancer. I have aunts and cousins who've had it," she said. In addition to the family history, Robinson has additional risk factors for breast cancer, and her primary care provider even sent her to a genetic counselor for testing.

Robinson, who works as a medical assistant, knows that early detection is the key to dealing with breast cancer. "I do what I can," she said. "I've always done monthly self-exams and I had my first mammogram five years ago." She suspected that at some point, closer monitoring would be recommended.

"After my most recent mammogram, I thought everything was fine until I got a phone call saying they needed additional views," Robinson said. "I wasn't worried. I've had breast reduction surgery so I thought it was probably scar tissue. Then I got another phone call. They were recommending an ultrasound. Then I knew it was more than scar tissue." After the ultrasound, Robinson was scheduled for a biopsy of a mass that had been detected.

Fortunately for Robinson, she was able to connect with Breast Nurse Navigator Melissa Hoag, R.N., O.C.N., C.N.-B.N. at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot. Hoag works at the Breast Health Program in Alma, which offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer detection and treatment.

From the moment a breast concern is identified, Hoag helps patients navigate the testing and treatment process through counseling, answering questions and helping to schedule appointments or follow-up testing. She guides each patient through screening, diagnosis and treatments, offering a coordinated, supportive continuum of care. She reaches out to patients who have been recommended to undergo a breast biopsy, as was the case for Robinson, and follows up to ensure proper healing occurs, helps minimize adverse effects/reactions and ensures patients receive the recommended follow-up diagnostic care they need.

"I'm glad that program is here and I really appreciated the role of the nurse navigator," Robinson said. "I called Melissa many times when I had questions or a symptom. It's good to have someone to bounce things off."

The Breast Health Program is a component of MidMichigan's comprehensive Cancer Care Program, supporting cancer prevention, detection and treatment throughout the middle of Michigan. In Robinson's case, she will continue to work through the Breast Health Program in Alma to closely monitor her health.

"The biopsy was negative – it was just fatty tissue – but that doesn't change my risk," she said. "In fact, once a mass has been identified, the chance of having more masses is higher." Robinson also met with Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Tannu Sahay, M.D., and together they developed a plan to continue to monitor her breast health.

Robinson hopes other women will follow her example and take an active role in protecting their own health. "Years ago, people didn't have the tools or opportunity to monitor closely but it's vital to early detection, which is the key to surviving breast cancer," she said. "Do what you need to do; get the testing done and follow through so that nothing gets missed."

Those who would like more information about MidMichigan’s Breast Health Programs in Alma and Midland may visit www.midmichigan.org/breast.

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