The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

July 7, 2014

New Geisinger clinic sheds light on patients’ breast cancer risk

— DANVILLE — A new high-risk breast clinic at Geisinger Medical Center gives women a “one-stop shop” for answering questions about cancer risk.

Previously, all the resources and expertise to start that conversation wasn’t in easy reach, according to Dr. Rosemary Leeming, director of Geisinger’s Comprehensive Breast Program. Previously, women would have had to learn about factors such as their chance of risk in more roundabout ways, such as through other tests or check-ups.

“It’s a service that is needed,” Leeming said. “We really weren’t doing it before.”

There’s a whole range of factors that can lead to breast cancer, including whether or not other family members have had the disease. The highest risk of developing cancer comes from inheriting the cancer, but “those patients with those inherited risks are few and far between. They only account for between five and 10 percent of breast cancer,” Leeming said. “The other 90 percent is a combination of things.”

Cancer risk is a continuum, and the new clinic wants to help women find out where they are on that spectrum.

“There are nuances to the risk we can help them with,” Leeming said.

The clinic can also discuss cancer warning signs, such as those associated with dense breasts. It’s a relatively new finding in cancer research that women with breasts with dense tissues are both two to three times more likely to develop cancer and have cancer that is harder to detect, Leeming said. Scientists are still researching the reason for this behavior in cancer.

“The point of this clinic is to say what is my risk and what can I do about it,” Leeming said. “This is something women want to know about it.”

The clinic can also refer women to evaluations with genetics counselors, radiology, pathology, medical oncology and others as needed.

The inspiration for the clinic came from Jody Shepperson, a Geisinger nurse who is both a co-worker and patient of Leeming’s. Shepperson’s family has a history of breast cancer and she wanted to know what her own risk was.

At one point, Shepperson told Leeming she was “almost too scared to get my mammogram,” but the tests they ran on her ultimately helped put her more at ease.

“I’m very thankful for this lady,” Shepperson said.

“This is our goal, to make people comfortable,” Leeming said.

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