Exceptional breast health services through committed staff and the most up-to-date technology

You could say that October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, needs no introduction. It’s easy to recognize. Pink products pop up on store shelves and online. National Football League players sprint across our television screens in pink cleats. The White House even glows pink each October.

In our community, larger-than-life pink ribbons decorate the exteriors of Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) in Prescott and the Breast Care Center at Dignity Health, YRMC East in Prescott Valley. Local businesses sponsor pink-themed fundraisers to support the Breast Care Center. Area law enforcement even gets into the spirit by displaying pink patches on their uniforms.

This October, we’re recognizing National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by exploring the Breast Care Center at YRMC. We’ll highlight how the team collaborates to care for women – and sometimes men – and feature the Center’s exceptional breast health services. Along the way, we’ll give you information to help you make good decisions about your breast health.

This is Us

The Breast Care Center and Prescott Medical Imaging (PMI) staff includes breast imaging technologists, nurses, clinical navigators, radiologists, registration coordinators, schedulers, volunteers, an image librarian, and more. While these people serve in vastly different roles, they all do their part to:

  • Prevent breast cancer – or detect it early – through screening mammography.
  • Assist patients who need follow-up diagnostic imaging studies.
  • Coordinate treatment and support services following a breast cancer diagnosis.
  • Educate patients and the community about breast health.
  • Contribute to the Breast Care Center’s positive, caring environment.

“There truly is a shared commitment to excellent patient care,” said Kathi Hoffer, Imaging Operations Manager, Breast Care Center at Dignity Health, YRMC. “I see that in every member of this team. There’s compassion for all of our patients.”

Empathy is Everywhere

Many Breast Care Center team members draw on their personal experiences when interacting with patients. Some team members are breast cancer survivors. Others have supported family members and friends during their breast cancer journeys.

This empathy is especially appreciated when a patient needs a higher-level screening or a procedure — a breast ultrasound or core needle biopsy, for example. Patients may undergo these procedures after a suspicious finding during a screening mammogram, a breast self-exam or an exam by a physician.

“These women are not going to rest until they have closure, especially if they have a history of breast cancer,” Hoffer says. “Our schedulers make patients with these ‘high-anxiety’ exams their top priority. They do everything they can to get these patients scheduled quickly.”

Early Detection is the Best Protection

Conversations with the community about the importance of breast screening for early detection of breast cancer are also a priority for the Center’s staff. According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the United States by nearly 40% since 1990.

The Breast Care Center supports the ACR screening guidelines, which recommend:

  • A baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40.
  • Yearly mammograms after age 40.
  • Continued annual screening for as long as you would pursue treatment if cancer was detected.

“Our community is full of very virbrant women in their 70s, 80s and even their 90s,” Hoffer said. “That’s a major reason we do not recommend ending annual mammograms at a certain age.”

If breast cancer is detected – as it will be for about 13% of American women during the course of their lives – it’s now very treatable. This is especially true when breast cancer is diagnosed “in situ,” before a tumor can be felt.

“These cancers are very curable with minimal treatment,” noted Hoffer. “People think breast cancer means they will have chemotherapy, radiation, surgery — all of it. That’s not always the case.”

Detecting breast cancer early is possible with annual mammography. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2018, approximately 67 percent of women age 40 and older had a mammogram within the past two years. During the pandemic, fewer women were able to get their annual mammograms.

Questions to Ask Your Imaging Center

It matters where you undergo your annual screening mammogram. Imaging continuity is important, meaning it’s best to have your mammogram at the same facility year after year. The Breast Care Center and PMI offer identical mammography services so patients can visit either facility for annual breast screenings.

Here are a few questions to ask about your breast imaging provider before your next mammogram. We’ve included the answers you’ll receive from the Breast Care Center.

  • How do you manage a “callback” after a screening mammography?

Keep in mind that getting a callback after a mammogram does not mean anything is wrong. Many more women are contacted for additional views after a mammogram than are ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Our radiologists are often looking for magnification views or views from a different direction,” Hoffer explains. “Their approach is to leave no stone unturned when it comes to your breast health.”

  • If I need follow-up procedures after a screening mammogram, is that available at your facility?

Yes. The Breast Care Center features a continuum of breast health services from screening to diagnostic procedures to treatment planning and coordination. The availability of all these services allows patients to receive care through a familiar provider, like the Breast Care Center, PMI and Dignity Health, YRMC.

  • Do your radiologic technologists specialize in breast imaging?

At the Breast Care Center and PMI, screening mammograms are performed by breast imaging technologists. These are radiologic technologists specially trained in breast imaging.

“This really makes a difference in your mammogram,” said Hoffer. “Our breast imaging technologists are experienced at positioning for optimal views, recognizing possible pathology and taking extra views when needed. They’re always focused on the best outcome for their patients.”

  • Are your radiologists board certified?

The Breast Care Center and PMI radiologists – physicians who use medical imaging to diagnose and treat patients – are all certified by leading radiology accrediting organizations. They also have trained at some of the nation’s top radiology programs.

“We have an amazing team of radiologists,” said Hoffer. “They are extremely skilled at interpreting breast screenings as well as performing diagnostic studies and other procedures.”

  • Does your facility have advanced breast imaging technology?

The  Breast Care Center and PMI have exceptional technology dedicated to detecting breast cancer. This includes state-of-the-art digital mammography, a dedicated breast MRI system, three-dimensional breast imaging, the Hologic Supersonic Mach 30 breast ultrasound and more.

  • Are your breast imaging modalities accredited?

The ACR is the gold standard in accreditation for imaging studies. Both the Breast Care Center and PMI are ACR accredited in mammography. The Breast Care Center also has earned ACR accreditation in breast MRI and sterotactic biopsy.

Schedule Your Annual Screening

To schedule an appointment at the Breast Care Center or PMI, talk to your healthcare provider or call 928.771.7577. Learn more about the Breast Care Center at DignityHealth.org/YRMC and PMI at HometownRadiology.org.