St. Francis Opens New Center for Breast Health

Breast cancer affects one in eight women and non-malignant breast issues affect countless more.

Mark Nantz, CEO, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, points to the new Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health on the campus of ST. FRANCIS eastside as answering the critical health needs for women in the community.

"We have witnessed significant growth in our breast imaging and breast health services," he says. "This center has been in the planning stages for more than three years and designed and built to bring together the most advanced technology with our mission of compassionate, total patient-centered care."

Advanced Technology

The Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health includes:

  • Full Field Digital Mammography - St. Francis is the only hospital breast imaging center in the area to offer this level of technology. Digital mammography gives the radiologist the greatest ability to manipulate and enhance images of the breast. Full Field Digital is especially important as it is able to produce more accurate images with the least amount of radiation.
  • ImageChecker Computer Aided Detection - Each woman who has images made at the Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health has breast images made first with digital mammography. Images are then reviewed in a second level of scanning through the ImageChecker CAD process. This process can detect potentially problematic patterns in the breast tissue that can be undetectable to human eyes.
  • Breast MRI - Breast MRI is superior at showing the size and extent of breast masses prior to any invasive procedures, including surgery. Every patient who has a diagnosis of cancer is given a breast MRI. Breast MRI has become one of the "gold standards" not only for patients diagnosed with cancer, but for those with genetic pre-disposition and strong family history of breast cancer. This technology has also played an important role for diagnosing breast implant rupture and in post-operative and post radiation treatment planning.
  • Breast Ultrasound - This tool can determine if breast masses are solid or fluid-filled. Ultrasound is a primary diagnostic tool for women who need additional imaging beyond digital mammography but cannot have MRI. Ultrasound is also the technology used to help guide needle biopsy procedure.

"This is certainly premier technology," says Paul D. Kountz, MD, Medical Director of Imaging for the Center. "But the technology is merely a 'set of tools.' What is most important is how our clinical team has been able to use these tools in delivering the best in timely, integrated care for patients."

Timely Care

One of the key elements in the care process at the Breast Health Center is making sure that timely care and reportin of results are priority.

The center operates Monday-Saturday to ensure that mammograms can be scheduled the same or next day if a critical need arises, or within a few days for annual screening mammograms. If a reason is found for a return screening, those receive priority. If an abnormality is found, the goal is to have the patient's meeting with the next level of caregiver (usually a surgeon), accompanied with all necessary test results, within two weeks of the initial screening.

Multidisciplinary Team

Each patient case with a diagnosis of cancer is reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team. Medical Director Dr. Paul Kountz explains, " For patients, this is like getting a 2nd, 3rd or even 8th or 9th opinion on their care. What is most helpful in this process is, for example, the surgeon will hear from the medical oncologist, and they both hear from the patient's navigator. This level of integration from diverse specialists is just another example of how we have 'hard-wired' care integration into the system."

A Healing Environment

The Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health has been designed from the ground up using insight and ideas from current patients and local women.

"We've been actively asking for and listening to the voices of our patients since the idea for this center was conceived," says Becky Hill, Director of Women's Imaging. "In everything from patient registration to how patients receive care on the day of their visits, when/where and how they receive support from a patient navigator - even to the choice of colors and furnishings - we have taken an intentional approach to patient care. These are the elements that set this center apart, and they are a direct result of the input provided by our patients. Even the fact that we placed our center in an outpatient setting, as opposed to the hospital, is critical to the healing environment we are creating for each patient."

Breast Health Navigators

At the Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health, Breast Health Navigators are avialable at no cost to patients with abnormal results from their mammograms. These women provide one-to-one support, care coordination and assistance through the treatment process. From patient care coordination to locating resources for out of town families, the navigators are with patients every step of the way. Supplementing this support are extensive patient education and rehabilitation.

"St. Francis Cancer Care Services are built on clinical excellence, but our naviagators are critical to our philosophy of care," Nantz says. "Here at the Pearlie Harris Center, as throughout St. Francis, care is about the whole person. It is about bringing faith and compassion on the journey of health and healting with our patients."

The center is located at 131 Commonwealth Drive, adjacent to St. Francis Eastside.


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