Cancer Patient Experience - Story One

One Year Later,
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program
Paints a Clearer Picture of the Future

A  little more than one year since the launch of GBMC's Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program, patients concerned about their individual risks for developing the disease have found potential answers to that constant, unsettling question - am I at a high risk for breast cancer?

Bethany Jakubowski heard about the program from her family doctor in Bel Air. Because the 23-year-old's mother is a seven-year breast cancer survivor, she is vigilant about performing monthly breast self-exams. When she discovered a suspicious lump in one of her breasts, she was referred to Scott Maizel, MD, who directs the unique risk assessment program at GBMC's Sandra and Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center. Luckily, Ms. Jakubowski's discovery was determined to be of no concern, and during this visit she also completed the breast cancer risk assessment.

"My mom encouraged me to have the assessment," she explains. "When I learned that I was not at an increased risk for breast cancer, I felt a lot better and so did my mom. I talked with Dr. Maizel about what preventive steps I should take and I feel like I'm doing what I can to stay healthy."

Finding the Answers

The program incorporates the latest computer risk assessment tools. The assessment includes a detailed personal and family   medical history, which the patient enters into a handheld computer system developed by researchers at Harvard University.

"The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program has continued to grow over the past year," notes Dr. Maizel. "I have seen many  women who come to us because their mother had breast cancer and they are worried about what the future might hold for them. The majority of our patients have been determined not to be at an increased risk for breast cancer, while only five to 10 percent have had an identifiable genetic risk."

Patient Cheryl Bosse has a strong history of breast cancer. Both her mother and her grandmother had breast cancer and the disease claimed her mother's life. "My goal is to do all I can in terms of early detection and prevention," the 48-year-old Ms. Bosse says. "I want to take all the precautions I can, especially since I've had several breast cysts over the years and because of my family history."

On the Fast Track to Diagnosis

For patients who do have suspicious findings on their mammogram or physical exam, the program offers a rapid diagnosis fast track. Dr. Maizel points to a recent patient with an abnormal mammogram whom he saw at 11:00 a.m. and who had her biopsy performed at 1:00 p.m. that same day.

"The goal of all the services we deliver through the program is to provide our patients with an accurate picture of their risk," he adds. "We put their fears in perspective and empower patients with objective information and a plan to manage their risk."

Using the latest in computer assisted risk evaluation, this program combines a woman's personal and family risk factors to obtain an objective analysis of her chance for developing breast cancer.  For those women who are at higher than normal risk, strategies for long term risk reduction or genetic testing can be instituted through the breast center.  Contact Dr. Scott Maizel at the GBMC Comprehensive Breast Care Center at  443-849-2600.

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