Buddy Check 3: Customized program for people at high risk for breast cancer

Mercy identifies patients who need more aggressive monitoring to catch breast cancer before it starts
Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 2:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Mercy Hospital has what’s called a High Risk Breast Cancer program for patients here in the Ozarks.

It’s for people with the biggest risk factors for breast cancer. Now they can find out for sure if they really are at high risk and get a customized plan to stop the cancer or catch it in its earliest stages.

If you’re worried about being at high risk for breast cancer, you usually start with regular mammograms. But these days it’s not the only screening you’ll get on even routine visits here at Mercy Breast Center. The detailed surveys patients fill out are also turning up important information. Information that could result in a patient needing to be swabbed for a genetic test on the same visit for your mammogram.

“We discovered there’s a lot of ladies out there who are at risk. They had no idea they were at risk. The important thing is identifying those people. That’s what we’re trying to do at the Breast Center,” according to Mercy Breast Cancer Surgeon, Dr. John Bumberry.

For decades, Dr. Bumberry has specialized in breast cancer surgery. Now his office has also become the place to go when genetic test results have identified you as high risk for getting breast cancer.

“There are different ways to be at risk. It could be your family history. Could be because there’s a mutation running through the genes. It could be because you’ve had a breast biopsy that shows some atypical genes or something like that,” said Dr. Bumberry.

Family history initially raised the concern for Catherine York, that she was in that high risk category for breast cancer.

“I finally came and saw Dr. Bumberry and ended up having a gene mutation. So that predisposes me to risk for breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and possibly ovarian cancer,” said Catherine.

Family history and genetic test results estimated Catherine’s risk for breast cancer at 60%.

“So I felt that was too high for my comfort level. And I’ve got two small kids that I need to be here for. So I did the surgery,” said Catherine.

Catherine had a double mastectomy. And as a nurse practitioner, she now works with Dr. Bumberry and counsels other women at high risk for breast cancer.

”It’s obviously where I was meant to be. I love it. Just being able to help the women through this process is awesome, because they need that. It’s a scary process,” according to Catherine.

Treatment for high risk patients is customized according to medical calculations from factors like gene mutations and family history.

“If you have a BRCA (breast cancer) mutation, your risk of breast cancer is about 80-85% in your lifetime. If you have a 20% risk, there’s a big difference between the two. So a lot of ladies will start with screening, and we’ll usually get an MRI on those ladies initially,” said Dr. Bumberry.

High risk patients will be followed more closely here. Many will be seen every six months, with increased mammograms and a yearly MRI, all ways to stop cancer in its tracks.

”If we test that lady ahead of time, and find out she has a BRCA mutation...and we follow her more closely, if she does get cancer we’ll catch it at an early stage where it’s not nearly as far along and she’ll do better. Or we might keep her from getting cancer in the first place by taking care of it beforehand,” said Dr. Bumberry.

Dr. Bumberry says it’s also good to let people know when they are not at high risk for breast cancer. Genetic testing has been a big relief for some women when they find out they don’t have any gene mutations, even though someone in their family had breast cancer.

Don’t forget to sign up for Buddy Check 3 here. This is one way we can remind each other to follow the guidelines for catching breast cancer in its earliest most treatable stage.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com