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Doc Talk

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Every year more than 260,000 women are diagnosed with breast and gynecological cancers in the U.S. And many of those women will have their gynecologists to thank for catching the disease in its early stages with cancer screenings and exams.

 

Cold Spring gynecologist Dr. Stephen Hensley is one of those specialists who are on the front lines of the fight against breast, uterine, ovarian and cervical cancers at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

 

"Mainly, the No. 1 cancer I see is breast cancer. In fact, one in seven women is going to have it in their lifetime, so it’s very common," he says, referring to the 190,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S. annually.

 

"The next most common type of cancer would be uterine, with about 40,000 women affected annually. Then ovarian cancer, which affects about 20,000 women, and then cervical cancer, affecting about 10,000 women each year. And most gynecologists see all of these types," Hensley says.

 

The key to beating cancer of all types, of course, is early detection. The good news on that front is that many gynecological cancers can be detected early, Hensley says, and the key to that early detection is knowing and responding to the signs and obtaining regular screenings for cervical and breast cancers.

 

Cervical Cancer

 

Cervical cancer is best detected through annual Pap smears, starting at age 21, or within three years after you first have sex. As far as preventing cervical cancer, girls and young women ages 9 to 26 can now get the HPV vaccine to prevent one of the main causes of cervical cancer. All women can reduce their chances of acquiring the disease as well by refraining from smoking, limiting their number of sexual partners and using condoms during sex.

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Uterine Cancer

 

There are no simple tests for uterine cancer, so it’s important that women tell their doctors as soon as they notice anything that seems like a sign of the disease. These early symptoms include vaginal bleeding that is heavier than normal or that comes between periods or after menopause. Some women also experience pain or pressure in their pelvises. Although there are no known ways to prevent the disease, some steps lower your chances of getting uterine cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These steps include:
Using birth control pills
Staying active
Maintaining a healthy weight
Asking your doctor about progesterone therapy if you’re taking estrogen during menopause

 

Ovarian Cancer

 

Ovarian cancers are trickier than most others to detect and prevent, Hensley says, which also contributes to their much higher fatality rate. Early signs of the disease also can mimic other health problems, Hensley says, but women should still be aware of what those signs are and see their gynecologists if they experience them.

 

"Ovarian cancer signs include bloating, cramping, constipation and weight gain, which are really kind of vague things that many women experience anyway, so it’s difficult," Hensley says.

 

Fortunately, there is one relatively new tool that is helping in the fight against this most deadly gynecological cancer, as well as breast cancer. Women who have relatives in their immediate families who have had breast or ovarian cancer are at higher risk of the diseases, Hensley says. But those women can now be tested for the gene that predisposes them to such cancers, and doctors then can take special precautions to catch or arrest the disease in its tracks.

 

"It’s called the BRCA gene … and if you have that, you’re more likely to have breast and ovarian cancer," Hensley says. "So we can do a gene study, and if you’re positive for the gene, we know you’ll need a lot higher surveillance … that test has really sort of changed the playing field, as it relates to ovarian and breast cancer, for a lot of doctors."

 

At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, women not only can obtain the latest available genetic testing — including BRCA testing — but they also can enroll in a complete program of genetic counseling to assist in making the best decisions for each individual’s specific situation.

 

St. Elizabeth is also a top provider of all screening services for breast cancer — including the latest digital mammography at all of their Northern Kentucky locations — to help women age 40 and older to quickly and confidently obtain their recommended annual mammograms.



PHOTO CREDITS
Photo courtesy of 
St. Elizabeth Healthcare

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From fundraisers and informational campaigns to new technology and top-notch surgeons, several forces are at work to fight against breast cancer today. And the good news is that all the effort is really paying off, says Dr. Michael Guenther, a Northern Kentucky breast cancer surgeon.

 

As a breast oncologist, practicing at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Guenther stays on the cutting edge of advancements in the medical field. He says that today more than 80 percent of those with breast cancer are eventually cured. That number also is increasing every year, thanks partly to earlier breast cancer detection by a more informed public.

 

"Today most cancers are found by mammography," Guenther says. "This reflects the fact that tumor sizes have gotten progressively smaller through the years as women buy into the concept of screening to find tumors at a smaller size."

 

Surgery remains the most common and effective treatment for localized breast cancer, Guenther says. In cases where the disease may be spreading to other parts of the body, surgery is most often combined with other treatments to battle the disease.

 

"Surgery and radiation and systemic treatment with anti-hormones or chemotherapy, are indicated for regional disease or for those with possible metastatic disease," Guenther says. "But, very few tumors are treated without surgery, and that’s usually [with] those who cannot or will not have surgery."

 

St. Elizabeth Cancer Care: A Focus on the Individual

 

Aside from the latest digital mammography services and the most advanced surgical, radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments, St. Elizabeth offers a complete team of cancer experts including:

  • Surgical, medical and radiation oncologists
  • Medical physicists
  • Registered radiation therapists
  • Certified oncology nurses
  • Social workers
  • Registered dietitians
  • Pastoral care staff

 

 

091310DOCTALK.jpgAll these professionals are committed to the idea that top-notch cancer care focuses on treating all patients as the unique individuals they are. Likewise, everyone who comes to St. Elizabeth for breast cancer services can take confidence in the knowledge that they’re receiving the very latest procedures and treatments available to identify and treat the disease from the area’s most skilled professionals, like Guenther.

 

Guenther is particularly excited about advancements being made to diagnose and treat the disease because they hold the promise of helping even more people with breast cancer to win their fight against the illness, he says.

 

"A plethora of new treatments is in development," Guenther says. "A significant trend to individualizing treatment based on tumor genetics is happening right now, [as well as] targeted therapies that affect only cancer cells rather than the whole body, and pre-operative shrinkage of tumors to decrease the extent of surgery. It’s a very exciting time to be a breast oncologist."

 

Patients have come to trust Guenther and all the professionals at St. Elizabeth to provide the latest treatments and procedures to help find breast cancer early and eliminate the disease from their lives.

 

If you have questions about any services at St. Elizabeth’s locations throughout Northern Kentucky – or just want to schedule a screening mammogram – call St. Elizabeth today at any of the numbers listed. Join the thousands of women who’ve already partnered with St. Elizabeth for lifelong breast health and overall wellness.

 

Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising section provided by St. Elizabeth.

 

PHOTO CREDITS

Photo courtesy of St. Elizabeth

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When it comes to breast cancer, we’re living in pretty good times. That’s because today most women with the disease will survive and thrive and often with less radical measures than a complete mastectomy. But the key is early detection, says Dr. Heidi Murley, a local breast cancer surgeon.

 

Murley practices in Northern Kentucky and has performed hundreds of breast cancer operations at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. She says many of her patients with the disease never felt lumps in their breasts.

 

"Many of my patients present with the earliest stages of breast cancer, detected by screening mammograms. These patients have no palpable breast lumps and, without screening mammograms, would not have known that they had breast cancer," she says.

 

"Unfortunately, I also see many women who are diagnosed with later-stage breast cancer. Most of these women have obvious lumps in the breast or underarm area. Because breast cancer is most easily cured in its earliest stages, the best way to fight it is through early detection."

 

Murley recommends the following measures for all women:

  • Routine self-exams for breast lumps
  • Annual breast exams with a physician
  • Annual screening mammograms, beginning at age 40

 

Women at higher risk of the disease may need to take different precautions, which should be discussed with their physicians. Some patients may require other types of imaging tests as part of a plan of overall breast health. But all women can rest assured that all the resources needed — from the latest technology to the area’s best physicians — are available at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

 

St. Elizabeth Cancer Care: A Focus on the Individual

 

Aside from the latest digital mammography services and the most advanced surgical, radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments, St. Elizabeth offers a complete team of cancer experts including:

  • Surgical, medical and radiation oncologists
  • Medical physicists
  • Registered radiation therapists
  • Certified oncology nurses
  • Social workers
  • Registered dietitians
  • Pastoral care staff

 090610DOCTALK.JPG

All these professionals are committed to the idea that top-notch cancer care focuses on treating every patient as the unique individuals they are. Your names and faces are dear to them, and they understand the challenges you’re facing and carefully choose your treatment and necessary procedures to meet your specific needs. Then, as you progress through to wellness, the health professionals closely monitor your needs and continually adjust your care for the best results.

 

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is continually evolving. There is a continual flow of ongoing studies on an array of breast cancer treatment options, Murley says. As a result, everyday research and technology is opening new doors for cancer patients, and at St. Elizabeth, patients receive the very latest and most effective care available, like that provided every day by physicians like Murley.

 

"Surgery remains necessary for most patients [with breast cancer], but minimally invasive treatments are possible for many women," she says.

 

"We have options for partial as well as whole breast radiation, and there are many ways to customize chemotherapy and anti-hormonal therapy to meet the needs of individual patients. Genetic studies of cancer cells can help us determine who will receive the most benefit from certain treatments. High-risk patients may choose surgery or medication to prevent breast cancer, and we are able to screen high-risk patients for genetic mutations that greatly increase cancer risk."

 

At St. Elizabeth, the professionals with the genetic counseling program and High-Risk Specialty Clinic are always available with the latest knowledge and technology to help women with special considerations just as effectively as St. Elizabeth does everything else.

 

If you have questions about any of these programs or just want to schedule a screening mammogram, call St. Elizabeth today at any of the numbers listed. Join the thousands of women who’ve already partnered with St. Elizabeth for lifelong breast health and overall wellness.

 

Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising section provided by St. Elizabeth.

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Surviving and thriving after breast cancer is all about early detection of the disease. In that respect, radiologists like Dr. Jackie Sweeney, are really on the front lines of the battle against the prevalent disease.

 

As a radiologist specializing in mammography at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Sweeney is an expert at screening for breast cancer and performing interventional procedures, such as needle biopsies. Like the majority of professionals involved in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, Sweeney stresses the importance of regular mammograms.

 

But she acknowledges that an announcement last fall by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has left many women confused about when they should start receiving regular mammograms. Last November, the task force announced it was no longer recommending routine screenings for women younger than 50 at low risk of breast cancer and would only recommend screening every two years for low-risk women between the ages of 50 and 74.

 

Some physicians advocate adhering to the task force’s recommendation, so it’s important to check with your own doctor to discuss what might work best for you. But Sweeney083010DOC.jpg still sides with the recommendations of the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology, which support annual screening mammography and clinical breast exams for all women 40 and older.

 

"The guidelines released this fall have created controversy, but most major medical groups continue to endorse yearly mammography, beginning at age 40," she says. "High-risk patients are evaluated on an individual basis in reference to starting routine earlier screening. … Screening mammography is still the gold standard to detect early-stage breast cancer."

 

Studies indicate that one in every 50 woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 50, Sweeney says. In fact, at St. Elizabeth, she says 20-25 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses are in women younger than 50, most often in women with no significant risk factors.

 

The Advantages of Digital Mammography at St. Elizabeth


For nearly three years now, women receiving mammograms at St. Elizabeth have benefited from state-of-the-art digital imaging technology – a vast improvement over regular film screenings. And when it comes to detecting cancers early and in hard-to-find cases, digital mammography excels, Sweeney says.

 

"St. Elizabeth is a completely digital program … (and) digital mammography has been shown to be superior to film screens for dense tissue and detection of calcifications, which can be a sign of early breast cancer," she says.

 

That kind of early detection has been key in changing the statistics about breast cancer survival. In fact, the mortality rate from breast cancer has dropped 30 percent since 1990, due in part to better screening technology like digital mammography. Aside from that service — and the most advanced surgical, radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments — St. Elizabeth also offers a complete team of cancer experts, including:

  • Surgical, medical and radiation oncologists
  • Medical physicists
  • Registered radiation therapists
  • Certified oncology nurses
  • Social workers
  • Registered dietitians
  • Pastoral care staff

 

 

All these professionals are committed to the idea that top-notch cancer care focuses on treating all patients as the unique individuals they are. Likewise, everyone who comes to St. Elizabeth for breast cancer services can take confidence in the knowledge that they’re receiving the very latest procedures and treatments available to identify and treat the disease from the area’s most skilled professionals, like Sweeney.

 

If you have questions about any services at St. Elizabeth’s locations throughout Northern Kentucky or just want to schedule a screening mammogram, call St. Elizabeth today at any of the numbers listed. Join the thousands of women who’ve already partnered with St. Elizabeth for lifelong breast health and overall wellness.

 

Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising section provided by St. Elizabeth.

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS

Photo courtesy of St. Elizabeth Healthcare