Knowledge Is Power
High-Risk Breast Screening Program empowers women to take charge of their health .
Kathleen McAdams and her mother , Ruth athleen McAdams was by her mom Ruth ’ s side as she waged her battle with breast cancer , first with surgical removal of the cancer and then chemotherapy and radiation . The treatment , though successful , was difficult . “ It was hard for me to watch her go through that and what it did to her body ,” Kathleen remembered .
After mentioning her mother ’ s diagnosis to her own gynecologist , Kathleen was referred to a specialist in breast oncology , who put Kathleen in touch with the Baylor Scott & White Health High- Risk Breast Screening Program . Through this program , Kathleen had access to information about her own risk as calculated by a combination of family history and genetic testing .
Generous philanthropic support from Celebrating Women helped launch the High-Risk Breast Screening Program in 2020 , and ongoing support has helped expand the program across North Texas , with plans to open the 14th location this fall . To date , the program has helped identify more than 5,125 women who were at high risk for breast cancer and were otherwise unaware . Once enrolled in the program , patients then work closely with a dedicated nurse navigator to determine best next steps , including additional screenings , genetic counseling and a personalized monitoring plan — with the goal of identifying any breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage .
Based on a variety of data-driven factors , women are considered at high risk for breast cancer if their score is over 20 %. Because Kathleen ’ s risk was calculated to be over 33 %, it was recommended that she get a mammogram and a breast MRI every six months . Armed with that specific information , Kathleen made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and significantly reduce the risk for breast cancer to wreak havoc on her own life .
It was the cellular processes associated with cancer that kept occupying her thoughts .
“ With my background and knowledge of cancer and how it works , how it spreads , I can picture those things happening and it was hard for me to not think about ,” Kathleen , a biologist and technical content creator , explained .
The expertise available to her through the program was invaluable , Kathleen said , and working with her nurse navigator , she was able to thoroughly understand and vet the options available to her after understanding her risk .
“ Knowledge is power . It ’ s their decision , but I ’ m here to support them and guide them in next steps once they process that information ,” shared Aimee
Lanier , RN , an oncology-certified nurse who is also certified in breast care nursing . Lanier is a nurse navigator and manager in the program .
Kathleen ’ s decision to have a double mastectomy was “ peace of mind ,” she said , after receiving and understanding the information specific to her own risk . The surgery was something she believed her body would more easily adapt to at her young age of 36 rather than fight a battle later , as her mother had done . While it was difficult for Ruth to watch her daughter undergo a mastectomy — just as it had been challenging for Kathleen to watch her mother recover from surgery — both women believe Kathleen ’ s decision was the right one for her .
Kathleen wrote her master ’ s thesis on a type of breast cancer , has taught biology and anatomy and physiology , and has attended medical school . “ Even with my background and the knowledge that I have , this program even helps someone like me understand my risk and my options . I really appreciated that the high-risk breast program exists , and have appreciated the support nurse Aimee was able to give me along the way .”
For more information on how you can support the High-Risk Breast Screening Program or other breast cancer initiatives through Celebrating Women , please contact Christina Goodman at 214.820.4408 or Christina . Goodman @ BSWHealth . org
THE COMPASS / BAYLOR SCOTT & WHITE FOUNDATION NEWS / FALL 2022