Advice worth sharing — Breast cancer patient encourages regular screening

October 16, 2012

This story is featured in the Fall 2012 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.

Penny Braun is mid-Missouri’s unofficial ambassador for annual mammograms.

Over the last three years, pretty much anyone who has crossed Braun’s path has heard her speak about the need to get screened. That includes friends, family, acquaintances — even salespeople who call her house.

Penny Braun

“With me, it’s normally, ‘How do you do? Have you had your mammogram lately?” said Braun, 71, who is a retired English professor at Columbia College and executive director of the local Alzheimer’s Association.

Just this summer, Braun made a point to stop some yard workers at her home as they were packing up to leave.

“As they were leaving I told them, ‘You need to get your wives to go get their mammograms,’” she said.

Braun’s devotion to encouraging mammography comes after screenings helped save her life — not once, but twice — over the last three years.

As recommended for women who don’t have a family history of breast cancer, Braun began getting her annual mammogram at age 40.

The screenings came back clear until three years ago, when doctors at Boone Hospital’s Harris Breast Center discovered a tiny cancerous lump in Braun’s right breast.

She was startled by the cancer discovery. However, she was thankful doctors caught it early. As an even-tempered person, Braun said she simply hunkered down and completed her prescribed treatment.

“I’m not likely to get scared,” she said. “My theory is that if they catch it early, at least you don’t have to worry that you’re too late to get it fixed.”

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Going the extra mile — Breast center staff knows their service is more than a job

October 2, 2012

This story is featured in the Fall 2012 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.

Melissa Hart is passionate about her work at the Harris Breast Center.

Melissa Hart with her MAMGRL license plate.

As a registered mammography technologist, every day she witnesses the power of mammography to save women’s lives. She wants to encourage more and more women to get screened each year.

Three years ago, she decided to take that message on the road. She purchased a personalized pink license plate for her vehicle that reads MAMGRL.

“It was a fun way to let people know what I do and bring awareness that women need to be getting their mammograms,” she said. “I feel strongly about what I do, and this is a way to show that.”

She hopes other drivers are getting the message.

“They could be driving down the road and somebody could look at my plate and say, ‘MAMGRL, what does that mean? Hey, maybe I need to get my mammogram,’” she said.

The entire team of caregivers at the Harris Breast Center shares Hart’s devotion to their profession and their patients.

The staff at the Harris Breast Center.

Registered Mammography Technologist Kirsten Kempker said she and her colleagues go to great lengths to ensure women are getting the best care possible while at the breast center.

“I care about each and every patient who comes through our door and I always do my best for every patient,” she said. “I see the same thing out of everyone I work with.”

Kempker takes such pride in the Harris Breast Center that she encouraged her mother to drive from Illinois to have her annual screenings done at Boone Hospital. The hospital’s technology, expertise and level of care made the drive worth it.

“It’s just really awesome and amazing what we do, especially with our new 3D technology; we’re able to see so much more,” Kempker said. “We really are the best place to get your mammogram, and I’m not just saying that because I work here.”

The breast center’s patients tend to agree. Earlier this year, the Harris Breast Center earned impressive honors from PRC, a national organization that rates hospital patient satisfaction based on phone interviews.

The organization recognized the Harris Breast Center as a HealthCare Award Winner for 2012 for Top Scoring HealthCare Facility for Outpatient Breast Health Services Overall Quality of Care.

The Harris Breast Center was also recognized with a Five Star Excellence Award for scoring in the top 10 percent nationally for patients describing their care as excellent.

Laura Smith, supervisor of the Harris Breast Center, said a simple rule explains why so many patients have positive experiences.

“It’s all about treating people the way you would want to be treated,” she said.


For Columbia woman, Harris Breast Center takes the pain out of mammography

October 24, 2011

By Kathy Moss

Kathy, of Columbia, shared this story via the myBooneHealth.com online submission form. Click here to share your story.

I had an amazing experience at the Harris Breast Center recently, and just had to write to tell you about it!

Previous mammograms have always been very painful for me—to the point where I would become faint. I understand the importance of routine screening, though, so I cooperate with this annual experience.

Boone Hospital's Harris Breast Center, conveniently located directly inside the hospital's Outpatient Services wing.

Last month, I arrived for my mammogram and was warmly greeted by Katie Abbott. She was welcoming and discreet as she gathered necessary information. Before I could finish drinking my cup of hot tea (nice!), I was escorted to the dressing room.

When Marsha told me she was finished obtaining my images, I couldn’t believe how pain-free the procedure had been this time!

When I commented on my experience, she first checked the images to make sure they were of good quality*, then described the technique she used which may have reduced my pain.

Fourteen minutes after arriving at the Harris Breast Center, I was back in my car.

I shared my positive experience with a friend of mine who has previously refused annual mammograms due to the discomfort.

Many thanks to Katie and Marsha for transforming this experience for me!

Here’s to health!

*I have since received a postcard indicating that the images did not reveal any abnormality.


Her own race for a cure — Triathlon inspires Columbia mother during breast cancer battle

September 2, 2011

Support breast cancer research during the Mid-Missouri Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on Sept. 18.

The week before the triathlon, Debi Hake was having second thoughts.

Debi Hake

It was early May of 2011. In just days, Debi faced a quarter-mile swim, 15 miles of biking and three miles of running.

It would be an intense athletic challenge for almost anyone, but even more so for Debi. She had just endured a long, painful battle with breast cancer.

The diagnosis had come almost one year earlier, and it was a complete shock. When the lump was discovered, she was married, with a seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. She ran a successful wedding planning business. And she was just 31 — a startlingly young age for a breast cancer patient.

“At my age, I figured I was too young to even worry about breast cancer,” said Debi, of Columbia. “Getting a mammogram wasn’t even on my radar for another eight years.”

Following the cancer discovery, and in the midst of debilitating chemotherapy, Debi surprised everyone when she announced she was going compete in the TriZou Triathlon that coming spring. She’d never attempted a triathlon before.

So she started training. She found her workouts to be incredibly difficult, but also therapeutic.
A year after her diagnosis, the race was just days away. With all she had been through, she began to feel doubts about whether she could actually complete the triathlon. She’d already taken quite a beating over the last year.

But as race day approached, Debi decided she needed the triathlon. After everything, she owed it to herself.

“I was determined I was going to do this. I didn’t care what anybody else thought, I didn’t care if I came in dead last, I didn’t care what I looked like when I was doing it,” she said. “It was for me.”

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New technology improving breast cancer detection

October 15, 2010

The following article is by Boone Hospital Center Radiologist Terry Elwing, MD.

Breast cancer affects all of us.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer sometime during her life.  We cannot prevent it and the cause remains unknown.

Dr. Terry Elwing

Dr. Terry Elwing

However, through screening we can find cancers early, when they are curable.

Mammography remains the test of choice for breast cancer screening.  It is cost effective, low risk, widely available and has a low false negative rate.  False positive exams do require additional evaluation, which is usually limited to additional views and ultrasound, but might require a biopsy.

Dedicated breast imaging began in the late 1960’s, and screening mammography was first recommended in the late 1970’s.  Many advances in screening have occurred over the past forty years with some of the most exciting occurring in the last ten years.  The American Cancer Society and American College of Radiology recommend screening for all women with mammography to begin at age 40 and continue yearly.

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Yearly mammogram is the best medicine for fighting breast cancer

October 1, 2010

The following article is by Barbara Tellerman, MD.

I am a physician, a radiologist. One of my responsibilities is to read mammograms.

I work in a busy, state of the art, breast imaging center, the Harris Breast Center at Boone Hospital. I am very proud of the service we provide to our community for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.

Dr. Tellerman

Dr. Barbara Tellerman, a radiologist at Boone Hospital's Harris Breast Center.

Yet, as busy as I seem to be each day at work, I know that not everyone who should have a mammogram is getting one. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to urge the women of mid-Missouri, who are 40 years of age and older, to get a yearly mammogram.

As a member of Congregation Beth Shalom, I also want to note that Jewish women have a special reason to be aware of the benefits of breast cancer screening. Women who are of Eastern European or Ashkenazic Jewish origin have a greater chance of inheriting the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are associated with a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

The yearly mammogram is a good time to review your family medical history and determine if you are possibly at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

During October, the color pink, symbolizing breast cancer awareness, is everywhere. There are lots of fundraising activities for breast cancer research. Local television, radio, newspapers and magazines feature inspiring stories about women and their families who struggle with the challenges of living with breast cancer. We are excited about the promise of technologies that will help us find and treat cancers early and more effectively. Read the rest of this entry »


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