Ed Ness

Ness

Nothing stokes fear like a cancer diagnosis.

For one patient treated by Munson Healthcare’s Oncology Services, breast cancer seemed like the least likely issue she would face. Then she discovered a lump. It was hard to believe it was anything concerning. Her most recent mammogram showed everything normal.

“I’m healthy. I’m 50 years old. I run 20 miles a week. I’m a vegetarian,” she said. “I felt like I was checking everything off that I should be and so when it didn’t go away, I made an appointment with my regular doctor.” The doctor thought another mammogram was in order. After that mammogram and a diagnostic ultrasound, the prognosis came. Invasive ductal carcinoma.

Helping this patient and the others in the Munson Healthcare system through the journey of cancer care that may involve surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy is something the staff of experts at the Cowell Family Cancer and throughout the system do every day.

During breast cancer month in October and every month throughout the year, staff at Smith Family Breast Health Center and other Munson Healthcare hospitals offer mammogram screenings using digital mammography. Several system hospitals as well as Smith Family Breast Health Center also offer 3D mammography for high risk patients and those with specific breast conditions where this technology has proven helpful in detecting breast tumors in early stages.

This month Munson Healthcare hospitals in collaboration with area health departments are encouraging women in their communities to schedule a mammogram if they have not been screened in recent years. For those women who do not have a primary care provider, staff will connect them with a breast care navigator to assist them in getting a referral for the test, and connect them with a provider for any further follow-up care or additional health screenings that may be needed.

Most insurance plans, including Medicare or Medicaid, cover mammogram screening. For those without insurance, our financial counselors can assist them at 231-935-7422.

Another former breast cancer patient recently shared with our communications staff her care story and the fact she had not had a mammogram for three years and “kept putting my health on the backburner.” Following a mammogram and her diagnosis, she went through treatment and recently rang the bell signifying completion of care at the Cowell Family Cancer Center.

She credits her family and cancer center staff as helping her through the ordeal. “The team here at Munson is outstanding,” she said.

Our efforts against breast cancer do not stop with typical cancer care. Munson Medical Center is a member of the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan, a network of west Michigan hospitals, physicians, and researchers who work together to provide access to National Cancer Institute (NCI) clinical trials.

At the Cowell Family Cancer Center, there are eight breast cancer related clinical trials currently open that are offered to qualified patients to participate in. Four are treatment related trials and four are control trials — trials that examine ways to improve the quality of life for cancer patients. So far in 2019, Munson Cancer Research has enrolled 16 patients on the breast cancer specific clinical trials.

Also during breast cancer awareness month, Munson Healthcare is offering community education programs, and supporting various events within the community that help raise money for the Women’s Cancer Fund. This fund is used to help patients that are facing financial difficulties during their treatment.

Breast cancer or any cancer diagnosis can be a scary. Our cancer services staff and physicians stand ready to come alongside and help ease the fears and help people focus again on the amazing things in their lives. Learn more about Munson Healthcare cancer services at munsonhealthcare.org/cancer.

Ed Ness is president and chief executive officer of Munson Healthcare.

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