When it comes to breast health, Howard County women now have treatment options closer to home.
Howard County General Hospital this year opened a new breast center, offering comprehensive services like mammographies, diagnostics and biopsies, and a full range of treatment options.
It is the only hospital-based program for the treatment of breast cancer in the county, said Susan Case, director of marketing and communications at the hospital. While the hospital has always had a "breast center of sorts," Case said, a new level of expertise has been brought to the center with the addition of associate professor of surgery and oncology Lisa Jacobs.
"I think it's comforting for women to have something close to home that's familiar," Case said. "When you're going through something as scary as breast cancer, that kind of comfort helps, and knowing you're getting great care locally is very important to a lot of women."
Jacobs, who has been working at the center since January, said there are many benefits to having the center in Howard County, including lthe surrounding environment of Columbia, which is more calming than the bustle of downtown Baltimore.
"It's tremendously relaxing and comforting to our patients," Jacobs said. "They're stressed and anxious, and don't know what to expect (in dealing with breast cancer). And you add that on to a patient just stressed from trying to get an appointment, it puts them in the wrong frame of mind before they come in.
"By providing care to women in calming setting like this, it promotes them being able to listen and understand what's going on, and it contributes to their overall health."
About two million women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer, Jacobs said; in Howard County, about 150 cases are treated a year. Jacobs said she thinks the number of patients treated in the county will double in the coming years because of the center.
"We believe there are a lot of women leaving the county for treatment because they were unable to get specialized care," she said. "By providing it here, we can keep those women in Howard County. ... They can get the best of all worlds here without having to leave the county."
Push for women's health
According to the Johns Hopkins website, Jacobs' expertise is in breast cancer, general surgery, skin cancer and surgical oncology. She graduated from the Columbia School of Medicine in Columbia, Mo. in 1992, and completed her residency at George Washington University School of Medicine. She has had fellowships at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and at George Washington.
At Hopkins, Jacobs said, the focus is on high-risk cancers and research. But at Howard County General Hospital, the focus is patient care and women's health.
"(At Hopkins), breast health is a small part of a large organization, and here in Howard County, we've made a push for women's health," Jacobs said. "There's a huge number of deliveries here, for example, and they believe in providing women's health for the entire community. ... Here, it's a big component."
One of the biggest delays in combating breast cancer, Jacobs said, is waiting for appointments and second opinions. On the campus at Howard County General Hospital, Jacobs can speak with a patient and literally point to the building the patient has to go to next.
"All of the services are in one location, and from that standpoint, it creates an environment where the patients can see us working together, and that we're communicating more easily," she said. "There's less likelihood of missing something or duplicating a test because we have much easier access to one another."
Jacobs is speaking at a free seminar Sept. 19. The event, on general best practices for women's breast health, will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the hospital's Wellness Center.