Early Detection Key to Fighting Breast Cancer

    Oct. 10, 2011

    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness and spread the word about advancements in treatment and prevention of the disease.

    Early detection is the single greatest weapon in the battle against breast cancer, according to Linda Lyon, RN, CBPN-IC, nurse navigator for The Breast Center at Rome Memorial Hospital,

    “Every three minutes throughout the world, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “Some risk factors we can't change. But lifestyle choices and regular screenings make a big difference in saving lives.”

    “Early detection is the key to winning the fight with breast cancer,” Lyon continued. “When cancer is detected early, the treatment options increase greatly. Early breast cancers, especially those that haven’t travelled throughout the body, present far fewer challenges than late stage breast cancer.”

    In her role as nurse navigator, Lyon acts as a patient advocate, helping to advise patients who are facing a possible breast cancer diagnosis to ease their anxiety. “After a patient comes in for a screening mammography, a diagnostic mammography or a biopsy is sometimes recommended so we can take a closer look,” she explained. “At that point, I step in and walk the patients through every step, explaining procedures, scheduling tests, answering questions and sometimes just holding their hand until they have come to a complete resolution.”

    “The healthcare system can be very confusing and complex,” Lyon continued. “When you add in the anxiety and fear of facing an abnormal test result, it can be downright challenging to manage. I am here to make the entire process easier and less intimidating for my patients.”

    A registered nurse and certified breast patient navigator through the National Consortium of Breast Centers, Lyon uses her knowledge of the healthcare system in all facets of patient care. “I assist during biopsies and help guide my patients through the healthcare continuum,” she explained. “I work with our doctors and surgeons to ensure continuity of care, making sure that each patient understands their options and help facilitate their wishes so their needs are met.”

    “My day begins and ends with patient care,” she said. “That is what I enjoy about being a nurse. I am always thinking about what is best for the patient. If what is best for the patient is for me to simply go out and sit with them before their test, during their test or after their test; that is what I am going to do”

    Lyon stresses that a recommendation for further testing or even a biopsy does not necessarily mean that something is wrong. “Just because a biopsy is recommended, it doesn’t mean that we immediately think that it is cancer,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know that an average of 80 percent of the biopsies performed return benign or non-cancerous.”

    “We know that fact doesn’t make it any easier for anyone facing the unknown,” Lyon continued. “That is why the hospital developed the navigation program. I specialize in making sure that no one who enters our facility faces the unknown alone. Patients do not pay extra for my services. I am available to anyone who needs me.”

    Advancements in treatment offer more hope to patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer than ever before according to Lyon. “There are drugs, chemotherapeutic agents and surgical techniques which are available to us now, and research is turning up new options for the future,” she said.

    Lyon recommends following the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) guidelines for screening and early detection. “The ACS suggests that screening should begin for all women starting at age 40,” she said. “Women with certain risk factors, including a history of breast cancer in their family, should consult with their doctor about beginning the screening process earlier.”

    “Woman should be performing a monthly breast exam beginning as early as age 18,” she continued. “It’s important that a woman begin self-exams at a young age so she can identify what is normal for her body and what is not. A woman needs to report any changes to her doctor who will help formulate a plan to rule out any abnormality.”

    Lyon lauds the advanced screening tools which are available at The Breast Center at Rome Memorial Hospital. “We are a small community hospital which thinks like a large medical center,” she said. “We have fantastic state of the art diagnostic imaging center right here. We have a high definition MRI, ultrasound, digital mammography and the services to go along with them all housed under the same roof. We use the same equipment being used in major medical centers, in some cases, our equipment is even better.”

    The hospital participates in the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers program as evidence of its commitment to provide each patient with the highest quality of care.

    For more information, Lyon can be reached at 338-7389.