High Risk Breast Clinic: A Patient’s Experience

I was scared, but I knew it had to be done.”

Those words encap­su­late how many women feel the first time they are screened or test­ed to deter­mine their risk lev­el for devel­op­ing breast can­cer. For Chris­tine Palmisano, a work­ing mom of three daugh­ters, the results of her onco­log­ic genet­ic test­ing were both the wake-up call and sig­nal she need­ed to start the impor­tant process of high-risk breast can­cer treat­ment with Duly.

Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety, one in eight women will be diag­nosed with breast can­cer at some point in their life­time. While the biggest risk fac­tors of devel­op­ing breast can­cer remain age and gen­der, oth­er fac­tors can also increase an indi­vid­u­al’s risk, includ­ing genet­ic make­up, personal/​family his­to­ry, dense breast tis­sue and more. If a patient is at high risk for breast can­cer, tak­ing advan­tage of cer­tain med­ical options may detect can­cer at an ear­li­er stage or decrease her risk for devel­op­ment of breast cancer.

Palmisano’s process start­ed with a sim­ple rec­om­men­da­tion to under­go genet­ic test­ing from her cousin, an ovar­i­an can­cer sur­vivor who was diag­nosed ear­ly and able to com­bat her con­di­tion. In fact, it was that same cousin who effec­tive­ly ini­ti­at­ed all the women in her fam­i­ly to get test­ed. In both instances, Palmisano and her cousin test­ed pos­i­tive for the spe­cif­ic BRCA2 gene, which increas­es the like­li­hood of can­cer in the ovaries as well as the breast.

Once I knew my cousin had test­ed pos­i­tive, and my own sis­ter came back neg­a­tive, I basi­cal­ly knew then I should brace myself for a pos­i­tive result for the BRCA gene,” recalls Palmisano. I decid­ed to go to my pri­ma­ry care doc­tor and my gyne­col­o­gist to share my fam­i­ly his­to­ry and deter­mine the next steps. They imme­di­ate­ly rec­om­mend­ed I vis­it the High Risk Breast Clin­ic. I was very impressed with my expe­ri­ence there.”

At Duly’s High Risk Breast Clin­ic, an on-staff genet­ic coun­selor assists patients with the ini­tial screen­ing and test­ing process. At a patien­t’s first appoint­ment, they com­plete a detailed ques­tion­naire about their per­son­al and fam­i­ly health his­to­ry and receive a phys­i­cal exam by a breast sur­geon. The clin­ic team then works with the patient to sug­gest a com­pre­hen­sive care plan that is spe­cif­ic to their needs.

The team at our High Risk Breast Clin­ic pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive breast can­cer screen­ing, genet­ic risk eval­u­a­tion and coun­sel­ing for patients if they are at increased risk of breast cancer.

An ini­tial High Risk Breast Clin­ic vis­it will last approx­i­mate­ly one hour and include a clin­i­cal breast exam, review of per­son­al med­ical and fam­i­ly his­to­ry, and will also eval­u­ate the over­all lev­el of risk, fol­lowed by mak­ing risk-reduc­ing strate­gies avail­able. In addi­tion, patients will be informed of research stud­ies they may qual­i­fy for, along with detailed infor­ma­tion about oth­er sup­port and ser­vices available.

For Palmisano, her treat­ment pro­gram at Duly’s High-Risk Breast Clin­ic cul­mi­nat­ed in the deci­sion to under­go a dou­ble mas­tec­to­my, to com­bat the risks she faced after test­ing pos­i­tive for the BRCA gene. She feels the deci­sion was an autonomous one-an oppor­tu­ni­ty for which she is grate­ful to her entire care team at Duly. 

Dr. Amrit Man­gat called me her­self to deliv­er the results of my test and lat­er dur­ing my con­sul­ta­tion she pre­sent­ed all the options, and let me make the deci­sion on which course of treat­ment was right for me,” says Palmisano. She was always uplift­ing and very pos­i­tive about the whole thing. I did­n’t have a doubt that she was the right doc­tor for me.”

As part of its over­all ded­i­ca­tion to wom­en’s health, Duly Health and Care works to treat and raise aware­ness of breast can­cer with patients year round and, as a result, is a leader in pro­vid­ing breast health care to patients in the region. The radi­ol­o­gy ser­vices, along with the team of physi­cians, which includes breast sur­geons, med­ical oncol­o­gists, radi­a­tion oncol­o­gists, plas­tic sur­geons and phys­i­cal ther­a­pists, under­line DMG’s com­mit­ment to patient well­ness, from screen­ing and diag­no­sis to treat­ment and sur­vivor­ship. Breast can­cer is not some­thing that should only be thought of dur­ing the month of Octo­ber, but through­out the year as an ongo­ing health mission. 

To learn more about over­all treat­ment options, vis­it the Duly High Risk Breast Clin­ic or call 630−545−7659 to make an appointment.