2016 was a year of education for both the staff at the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals and for patients of the center regarding the breast cancer disease.
Jennifer Sanders, Manager of the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals, was at the center of it all and shared her thoughts on the busy year, along with looking ahead for what’s in store for 2017.
Overall, the center saw the volume of client visits rise 7%, reaching the physician’s goal set at the start of 2016.
“That was phenomenal,” Sanders said.
Sanders also shared that the end of the year patient and outpatient satisfaction scores landed in the 98th percentile. This level of patient satisfaction led to the Center to be named one of America’s Best Breast Care Centers by Women Certified, home of the Women’s Choice Award and a leading advocate for female consumers.
Another goal reached was growing their services to better reach women of African American and Hispanic ethnicities, since these women have historically seen a later stage diagnosis when it came to contracting breast cancer.
One way Sanders and her team are reaching out to more women throughout the communities is through an aggressive push for education.
“We did many educational events, surpassing our goal of 40 events and participating in over 60 events in the community. This included providing education in churches, hosting Community 5K Walks and Runs, leading Business Expos, meeting with teenagers and young women at high schools and colleges,” she said. “We were everywhere last year. We feel this has made a positive impact on the breast health of our communities by dispelling myths and providing facts and education.”
The class attendance has increased, thanks to Sanders’ education team changing up the topics and targeting different groups of women.
“I have added a new piece to my education,” Sanders said. “When I go out now, I have a myth and fact wheel that has a bunch of myths and facts and depending on the age group I can curtail my education questions. I got so many more women coming to my table because they were learning and it wasn’t me lecturing them. That was pretty cool and new last year.”
Here are some of the events that helped make 2016 a pretty big year:
- On May 15, the town of Whiting, Indiana held the Stomp Out Breast Cancer 5k, a race to raise awareness for breast cancer.
- In July, women throughout the region were invited to enjoy a fun “Healthy Night out with the Girls” at the Breast Care Center. Another Night with the Girls event was held in September.
- October was the Go Pink Open House to celebrate the kick-start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
- Later that month, the Breast Care Center teamed up with the People Helping People Agency to host the area’s first ever Pink Party.
Many of these events and campaigns are annual functions and will continue into the 2017 year. The “No Woman Left Behind” is possible due to the affiliation with the NFL team, the Chicago Bears and their charitable arm called Bears Care. Last year, at their November luncheon called Real Bear Fans Wear Pink the Bears Care program presented a check to several organizations; the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals was one of them.
“We get screening and diagnostic work-up funds from them,” Sanders said. “We have screened over 250 women through that program since 2013, and we have found five cancers.” Typically, you can say that for every 1,000 women, five to eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This program is absolutely essential to the community."
The Breast Care Center is known as being one of the first 10 locations in the country - and the first in Indiana - to use the 3D mammography technology system. This technology allows the team to detect cancers just three millimeters thick, whereas with digital technology, cancers the size of seven or eight millimeters are being detected.
“We have 3D mammography, the best mammography technology being performed in the world right here,” she said. “So, for us right now, there is no higher we can go for technology.”
“This technology is being performed by one of best teams as well. The team at the Breast Care Center has been the same group of employees since 2004,” Sanders said.
“I am proud to say the staff members who have been in this department have been working together for the last 15 years,” she said.
Sanders herself was named a finalist in the Influential Healthcare category of the 6th Annual Influential Women of Northwest Indiana Awards, hosted in September.
“We are seeing that girls are coming in younger and younger,” Sanders said. “Last year we saw a substantial number of girls and teenagers coming into the center for lumps in the breast. That was different for us. They were all benign - nothing cancerous - but none the less, these girls are coming in and that was shocking for us.”
Sanders said girls are maturing at earlier ages and developing larger breast sizes. Girls at the age of 10 or 11 can have sizes in the C-cup range, thus are more susceptible to cysts and benign masses.
These younger ages are only making the team at the center work that much harder to be proactive and aggressive when talking to women about their mammograms.
The base line for women to get their first test has dropped down to age 35, but at 40, women need to begin annually having their bodies screened, she said.
There is an issue on the rise that Sanders and her team have been seeing recently: women coming in once, get cleared, then do not come back for another five years or until something worse happens.
“It is definitely amazing to see the late stage cancers come in, still with all the knowledge and all the information out there, to come in with an eight-millimeter mass,” she said. “It is unbelievable. We are not sure how it gets that far.”
That is why getting to the younger girls in college and even high school gives them an advantage.
“We want to dispel any myths and let these girls know that this does happen to women,” she said. “Screening for mammograms, checking your breast once a month, and having a physician do a clinical breast exam can save your life. So, we are teaching them early to not be fearful and to fill them with knowledge.”
According to Sanders, the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer will increase by five percent in the next 10 years.
“This disease is not going away,” she said, but the team at the Breast Care Center is not going away either.
They will only get louder.
“We are trying to make the difference in the community,” she said. “We are going to increase our screening rates and we are going to get women who think this is never going to happen to them to come in and get their mammogram and have it done annually thereafter.”
For more information on the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals, visit their website.
Pavilion A, 101 E. 87th Ave. Merrillville, IN 46410
Visit Methodist Hospital Breast Care Center Partner Profile