New Program Helps Women at Increased Risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer
TOMS RIVER, NJ - Community Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, has opened a comprehensive program to help women understand their chances of developing breast and ovarian cancers and take steps to protect their health.
"The new Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program will provide personalized cancer risk assessments, genetic counseling and genetic testing, when appropriate. As part of the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center, this program further expands the services available to help women protect their health by creating tailored plans for health monitoring based on each woman's level of cancer risk," said Rajesh Iyer, MD, chair, Community Medical Center's Department of Radiation Oncology.
"I am excited to join Community Medical Center and help develop this important resource," says the program's genetic counselor, Michelle Lyons, MS, LGC, who recently transferred to Community Medical Center from Monmouth Medical Center – a Barnabas Health facility in Long Branch. "There is a strong need for cancer genetic counseling in this region, especially considering Ocean County's higher-than-average rate of breast cancer diagnoses. Women will benefit from more comprehensive care through our Cancer Risk Evaluation Program. As more options for cancer genetic testing become available, it is increasingly important that women have genetic counseling to help them understand their risks and the implications of genetic testing, and to ensure that the appropriate test is ordered."
The program was first developed at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center. As a member of the Penn Cancer Network, Community Medical Center is able to provide its patients with access to Penn's world-class capabilities, including programs like this. "It's a real advantage," explains Lyons. "Our patients can receive care close to home, while still having access to clinical trials and other resources through Penn if they need it. In addition, I can present information about my patients at a case conference at Penn and receive input from other genetics specialists."
In many cases, the evaluation program will reassure women, notes the licensed, board-certified genetic counselor. "Some women may think they're at increased risk for breast or ovarian cancer, but their risk assessment or genetic testing may show that their chances are not higher than average," Lyons explains. "That can give them peace of mind."
All participants in the program will meet with both the genetic counselor and the medical director, George Trim, MD, a board-certified gynecologist with special training in cancer genetics. The Cancer Risk Evaluation Program team will discuss each patient's concerns, help her understand cancer risk factors and the genetics of cancer, perform a personalized risk assessment, and create a plan for health management.
For women with an elevated risk – such as those found to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation linked to cancer – the program offers support, resources and a customized plan to reduce the risk of cancer. Options for a woman at high risk might include periodic MRI screenings, more frequent mammograms, preventive medication, or surgery.
"After our evaluation, we will provide a written summary to the patient and any physicians she specifies. We can also help identify other relatives who could benefit from a risk evaluation," adds Lyons, who specializes in helping individuals and families at risk for hereditary cancers.
If a woman or one of her close relatives has any of the following risk factors, she may be more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer -- and could therefore benefit from the evaluation program:
- Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
- Ovarian cancer or bilateral breast cancer at any age
- A relative with male breast cancer
- Diagnosed with "triple negative" breast cancer
- Two or more cases of breast and/or ovarian cancer on the same side of the family
- Jewish ancestry and a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Any family member with a mutation in a cancer-susceptibility gene, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
"Women should know their family health history," Lyons emphasizes. "If you know which health conditions run in your family, you can take concrete steps to preserve your health and prevent those conditions."
Many insurance companies cover the cost of genetic counseling and genetic testing when medically indicated. Pre-authorization may be required, so patients should check with their plan in advance.
Community Medical Center's cancer program is approved by the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program, meeting the organization's high standards since 1986. The program has received the prestigious "Gold" designation for all areas surveyed.
To reach the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at Community Medical Center, call 732-557-2154. For more information on the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center, visit barnabashealth.org/Community.
The J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center at Community Medical Center
The Citta Cancer Center offers comprehensive, coordinated cancer care – close to home. The largest oncology program in the region, it provides access to the full range of cancer services, including medical, surgical, and radiation oncology; robotic surgery, an infusion program, complementary and holistic services, and participation in clinical research trials. The center also offers the only CyberKnife in the region for the treatment of inoperable tumors.
CONTACT: Jean Flaherty