|Maria Castaldi, MD and Miriam David, MD|
Olivia Sweeney squeezed her eyes shut in a futile attempt to hold back tears as the ugly words she dreaded to hear swarmed menacing and real in the air around her. “Cancer…it’s cancer. I’m sorry Ms. Sweeney, but you have breast cancer.”
“How could this be?” Olivia beseeched her Jacobi Medical Center clinicians. “And why me? I am still healthy and take care of myself. And I have kids to raise! This can’t be happening to me!”
Despite the prevalence of pink ribbon campaigns in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness this month, nearly 290,000 U.S. women this year will ask the same agonizing question, as they too, hear this awful news. Here in NYC, some 5,200 women are diagnosed annually, and nearly 1,300 die from breast cancer – yet the data also show that only about one in four women over 40 receive regular mammograms.
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals at Jacobi and all other HHC hospital and health centers across the city have long been in the front lines of the fight against breast cancer by promoting prevention and early detection, and ensuring women all over New York City have access to mammography even if they have no health insurance.
Quality and compassionate care is also an HHC trademark. As Olivia herself said, “At Jacobi, I could not be in better hands.”
“A powerful feature of breast cancer care at our hospitals is the intensity of collaboration among all specialists and staff who are involved in the patient’s care,” observed Dr. Maria Castaldi, Director of Breast Surgery Service at Jacobi and North Central Bronx Hospital (NCB). Each case is discussed at the same time, in the same room, by everyone participating in the treatment plan. Such collaboration produces well-coordinated, superior care that leads to better outcomes. It also provides a high level of comfort that improves the patient experience – something our patients trust and rely on.”
Jacobi and NCB provide more than 12,000 mammograms a year. Last year, HHC’s 16 hospitals and diagnostic and treatment centers provided more than 95,000 mammograms.
According to Dr. Castaldi, every suspicious finding is immediately referred for further investigation and evaluations including breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsy, ultrasound-guided biopsy, and MRI-guided biopsy. When malignancies are found, HHC patients can access reconstructive plastic surgeons and the specialty services of medical oncologists and radiation therapists.
“HHC facilities use state-of-the-art mammography systems that produce digital breast images through computerization rather than traditional X-ray film, substantially improving detection of abnormalities, and reducing delays in generating reports,” said HHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ross Wilson.
The high standards of breast imaging services at Jacobi and NCB this year earned prestigious recognition as a Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. And the Breast Surgery Service successfully underwent rigorous scrutiny by the American College of Surgeons to earn fully accredited designation – with examiner accolades - from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.
“The review processes are exacting and demanding, and set the bar very high,” explained Dr. Castaldi. “Achieving such designation tells breast cancer patients and their families that we exceed the standard of care. Our patients deserve such treatment. We are proud to provide it.”
Comprehensive breast health services, including mammograms, are offered at HHC hospitals and health centers in the five boroughs. Patients who present with a lump or other negative findings can receive a diagnostic mammogram within 3 days, but often on the same day. Women seeking screening mammograms can generally get an appointment within 14 days.October 2011