Diagnosing Breast Cancer

We’ve come a long way and keep getting better.

Amanda read over her list of to-do: shop for groceries, buy her nephew a graduation present, and repaint kitchen walls . . . . get mammogram. She took a deep breath. Maybe she could postpone that. Like many women, one of Amanda’s greatest fears is having a diagnosis of breast cancer. And, since she just turned 40, her gynecologist insisted she get her first mammogram screening and recommended Missouri Baptist Medical Center’s Breast HealthCare Center (BHCC).

As a medical writer, she knew that early detection of breast cancer provides the most opportunity for successful treatment and survival of the disease. “The incidence of invasive breast cancers has decreased in recent years,” said Linda Proctor, MD, board-certified radiologist. “We do know that screening mammography has increased detection of early stages of breast cancers. When detected early, treatments can begin in the earlier stages before more invasive cancers develop.” Most of us are aware of the term ‘digital mammography,’ yet many may not fully comprehend just how astounding these advanced technologies are when it comes to saving women’s lives. Less than a dozen years ago, the majority of radiologists read film images in darkened rooms searching for any visible signs of breast abnormalities. Today, they are viewing digital images on high resolution computer monitors with the ability to zoom in on areas of concern. Images also are stored as computer files and, if needed, easily shared with other specialists who might be providing treatment. “With digital mammography, our sensitivity has increased so that we can catch cancers in the earliest stages before it has spread to the surrounding breast tissue,” said Dr. Proctor. “We’ve also done a good job in getting the message out that early detection is important. So many of today’s women are well versed about breast health.” In addition to digital mammography, breast centers now are using ultrasound and breast MRI, to further diagnose or rule out cancer.

Following Amanda’s digital mammogram, the radiologist determined she needed an ultrasound to evaluate several small lumps. Fortunately, they were fluid-filled cysts and not cancer. “Ultrasound is not used for screening, but is a great problem-solving tool,” Dr. Proctor said. “We use it frequently when we find a lump or mass, and need to look inside to find out if it is a benign, fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass. If solid, then we usually perform a biopsy to determine if it is benign or malignant.”

Dr. Proctor explained that only recently did MRI technology become available for breast diagnostics. Breast MRI, is not a replacement for mammography, nor should it be performed on all women. “We use breast MRI, for example, when cancer is found in one breast, and we want to assess the extent of the cancer as well as check the other breast, and for women who have a high risk history, or have had breast cancer in the past,” said Dr. Proctor.

At the Breast HealthCare Center, digital mammography is the current standard. The center has six radiologists dedicated to breast health and is accredited by the American College of Radiology as a “breast imaging center of excellence.” Digital mammography also is available at the Missouri Baptist Outpatient Center – Sunset Hills. 

Dr. Linda Proctor is a board-certified radiologist on staff at the Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. She received her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia. She completed her internship in medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and her residency in diagnostic radiology at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, St. Louis.

Advancements in Services: Nurse Navigator Helps Those with Breast Problems

Hearing the diagnosis of “breast cancer” can be terrifying. What’s more, the next steps often seem monumental. You want it taken care of NOW, but are confused about navigating through the complex healthcare system.

To shorten diagnostics-to-treatment time and better guide patients, Missouri Baptist recently opened a Multidisciplinary Breast Clinic within its Breast HealthCare Center. The Clinic combines the expertise of specialists in breast diagnostics, breast surgery and breast cancer treatment with a ‘nurse navigator,’ who is trained to guide women through their treatment.

The navigator generally sees a patient within 24-48 hours of referral. She assists by:

  • scheduling appointments with the specialists
  • offering women information they need to make informed decisions about their treatment plans
  • helping to quickly establish coordinated care across the clinic’s team
  • keeping the referring physician informed at each key stage of a woman’s treatment
  • providing connections to financial resources and social services, as needed.

And, more importantly, she gives compassionate and personalized one-on-one support. “We know these women are scared, and often face several months of treatment. Our addition of a nurse navigator helps patients navigate the details and gain emotional support, while our medical staff treats their cancer,” said Dr. Proctor.


Remember this recommended 3-step approach

The best methods for detecting cancer are to use this three-step approach to check for signs or symptoms of the disease:

1) Annual Mammogram (age 40 or older, unless your physician recommends otherwise)
2) Monthly Breast Self-Examination
3) Annual Breast Exam by Your Physician

To schedule a mammogram or appointment at the Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, please call 314-996-5170.

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