By Mark J. Bonamo
Dr. Motria Ukrainskyj, Medical Director of Breast Surgery at Saint Clare’s Health, remembers the moment in American culture when the critical need for the early detection of breast cancer symptoms prevailed over the embarrassment many women felt when faced with the onset of the disease.
When Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller went public with their breast cancer diagnoses, all of a sudden, it became acceptable to talk about it,” said Dr. Ukrainskyj. She was referring to the moment in the 1970s when the First and Second Ladies of the United States respectively went public with their breast cancer diagnoses, helping to remove the stigma many felt regarding the disease.
Dr. Ukrainskyj at Saint Clare’s Health is now leading the way in helping women bravely face the uncertainty and fear many feel when dealing with breast health problems. By providing exceptional care throughout the entire process, Saint Clare’s Health is helping women battle breast cancer using the most advanced treatments available. At the same time, Dr. Ukrainskyj and the breast surgical team take an individualized approach to treatments.
The baseline age for when women should begin regular screening exams for breast cancer is 40 years of age, according to Dr. Ukrainskyj. However, she points out that this baseline number could change depending upon certain factors.
“Women should at a minimum get their first mammogram at age 40 and have an annual breast care checkup if the patient has no family history of breast cancer, or any other risk factors for breast cancer,” Dr. Ukrainskyj said. “But if you are a member of a higher risk group – for example, if your mother or any other member of your family developed breast cancer at a young age – then you want to get your first screening 10 years earlier than the youngest member of the family diagnosed with breast cancer, but no later than age 40. Following this simple guideline is one of the best ways to stay safe in terms of early detection, which is critically important when it comes to breast health.”
If there is a finding of an abnormality after a breast cancer screening, patients have many more options, and therefore less reason to worry.
“Today, with better screening modalities, such as digital mammography and tomosynthesis, mammograms have become more accurate at detecting lesions at the earliest stages,” Dr. Ukrainskyj said. “And women are now much more aware and attuned as to what to do if they think that they have breast cancer, malignancies are being found even when they are not immediately felt, making it much easier to take care of them because they are caught at an earlier stage.”
A key component in detecting breast cancer early is through technological advances in digital mammography. These improvements include the invention of tomosynthesis, or “3D” mammography. Tomosynthesis is a new type of digital x-ray mammogram, which creates 2D and 3D-like pictures of the breasts. This tool improves the ability of mammography to detect early breast cancers, and decreases the number of women “called back” for additional tests for findings that are not cancers.
Dr. Ukrainskyj called tomosynthesis a critical component of breast care at Saint Clare’s. “We have the ability to take patients from mammograms, through testing and biopsies, and then to surgery, if necessary,” she stated.
“At Saint Clare’s Health, we only offer the most advanced 3D tomosynthesis technology. As I share with our patients, the breast is three-dimensional. A mammogram is a two-dimensional image. With digital tomosynthesis technology, the radiologist is not only seeing two views of the breast, but they are also able to move visually in and out of the breast view,” Dr. Ukrainskyj said. It is especially helpful for patients who have dense breasts “Our use of tomosynthesis technology at Saint Clare’s Health enables us to detect cancers that may not otherwise be seen with regular digital mammography.”
To help patients effectively respond with the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis, Saint Clare’s offers the Nurse Navigator program as a way to share and manage important medical information, as well as offer vital personal support during what is a daunting process for anyone facing a medical crisis.
“Our Nurse Navigators are individuals with nursing backgrounds who are interested in helping patients through the process and who have received special training to guide and support the patients in the best way possible,” Dr. Ukrainskyj said. “If a patient has a finding on a mammogram that will require a biopsy, the Nurse Navigator will then bring the patient into her office and explain the biopsy process – what’s being done, why it’s being done, and how it’s going to be done.”
Saint Clare’s Health has always had a focus on individualized patient care.
“You’re working with a patient who has a disease that has such an emotional impact on them. You can’t help to get to know them well. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve seen of graduations, weddings, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all of which show that patients can live and thrive after a breast cancer diagnosis.”
“As a physician, I am committed to providing exceptional patient care, supported by advanced technology, and to treating each of my patients as if they are my own family. In fact, the entire staff at Saint Clare’s Health is dedicated to individualized, quality care. That’s what Saint Clare’s Health does so well. You are never a number, but a unique person. That’s what we do every day.” Dr. Ukrainskyj proudly states.
For more information, please visit www.saintclares.com or call the Saint Clare’s Women’s Health Center at 973-537-5665. Dr. Ukrainskyj at 973-537-5600, located at 400 West Blackwell Street, Dover, NJ 07901.