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Breast cancer program covers all aspects of care

A mammography unit. (UPHS-Marquette photo)

MARQUETTE — The words “you have breast cancer” are among the most frightening a woman can hear.

But the staff at UP Health-System – Marquette strives to make sure that a woman handed that life-changing diagnosis never feels as though she is alone.

“We offer a comprehensive cancer program at UPHS-M,” said Beth Schloegel, Senior Director of Oncology Services. “From screening to diagnosis to treatment, the care we offer to breast cancer patients covers all aspects.”

Danielle Haanpaa, Cancer Patient Navigator at UPHS-M, puts it this way: “The team I work with, everyone from techs to radiologists to pathologists, nurses oncologists and surgeons, are willing to do what we need to do in order to expedite care for the patient. That’s important to us. We put ourselves in that patient’s shoes. What would we want to have done if it was our sister, our daughter, our mother or ourselves?”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities and other groups to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

This is the lobby of the Cancer Center at UP Health System-Marquette. Cancer patients receive comprehensive care at UPHS-Marquette, with teams striving to help patients with the journey back to better health. (UPHS-Marquette photo)

The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

While guidelines change sometimes, the main tenet is for women to be proactive – to be screened and to be aware – in order for early detection to be possible.

“The common recommendation is for a woman to have her first breast cancer screening at age 40, but that can vary if she is in a category with higher risk, like a family history of breast cancer,” Schloegel said.

For the majority of women, the once-a-year mammogram is sufficient.

“But if the radiologist sees an area of concern, they might recommend a follow up in six months rather than in a year,” Haanpaa said. “We offer 3D mammography here at UPHS-Marquette and at the radiology department at the Peninsula Medical Center. That has increased the number we see of small tumor we see, ones that are so tiny that the woman hasn’t experienced any symptoms at all.

“That is exactly when we want to detect a tumor, when it’s that small.”

With mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI used to detect any areas of concern, biopsies are another method of checking for breast cancer, she said. “The majority of biopsies come back negative, but it’s good to make sure.”

Local statistics show that “anywhere from 85 to 100 patients with breast cancer are seen each year at UPHS-M,” Schloegel said.

Another key toward early detection is something simple: a woman needs to know her own body, Haanpaa said.

“A lot of the recommendations have changed as far as self-exams for breast cancer are concerned. Women have lumpy, bumpy breasts. We recommend that women know their breasts, what they look like, what they feel like,” she said. “You need to know your body so you can recognize any changes.”

Schloegel said once a cancer diagnosis is made, UPHS-M has a team who carefully monitors the patient’s journey.

“That’s something we offer to all cancer patients,” Schloegel said.

UPHS – Marquette is the only cancer center in the UP to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NABPC), which every three years does a rigorous evaluation — including a site visit — to be sure its standards are being met.

Haanpaa said she welcomes calls with any breast cancer-related questions and not just from current breast cancer patients.

“For instance, if you were a breast cancer patient 20 years ago, but need to find a bra that works for you now, give me a call,” she said.

Haanpaa can be reached at 906-449-3352.

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