Rosie Dinh, a nurse practitioner at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, recalled a father of a family she saw regularly having a strong family history of breast cancer. He tested positive for colon cancer.
The man also tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, which is a common cause of hereditary breast cancer. So, Dinh, who runs UMUCH’s High-Risk Breast Cancer Clinic, encouraged the man to have his two daughters tested for the mutation, one of whom in her early 30′s tested positive for breast cancer.
“If it wasn’t for the high-risk clinic,” Dinh said, “this would have been missed, and her diagnosis would be a later stage where it would be harder to treat.”
The High-Risk Breast Cancer Clinic is a resource for individuals with an increased risk for developing breast cancer and focuses on its prevention and early detection.
“The high-risk clinic empowers individuals who have the high risk to really control their medical journey and prevent really horrific things from occurring in their life,” said Laurie Fitzgerald, UMUCH’s director of oncology practice operations.
The clinic, Fitzgerald said, was formalized about five years ago.
“I’ve always [been] passionate about women’s health,” Dinh, a nurse of 26 years, said. “Breast cancer touches all aspects of women’s health.”
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Women who meet the high-risk criteria may be entitled to the clinic’s resources, which include breast exams, mammograms, MRIs, ultrasounds and other tests, depending on their needs.
Risk factors for breast cancer that may indicate one could benefit from the clinic, according to UMUCH’s website, include: family history of breast or ovarian cancer, personal history of ovarian cancer, or a personal or family history of a BRCA mutation.
However, just because someone does not have a risk factor does not mean they shouldn’t be vigilant.
“Some women have the misunderstanding,” Dinh said, “that, ‘If I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, I can’t get cancer.’”
Dinh said most patients with breast cancer have it discovered through mammograms, so the high-risk clinic hopes to encourage people to get them on a more regular basis, or sooner if they have a risk factor.
Another option of getting screened for breast cancer, Dinh said, is through the county health department, which has a program in partnership with UMUCH to provide no-cost screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers.
Anyone interested in scheduling a consultation with the High-Risk Breast Cancer Clinic may do so by calling the office line at 443-643-3020. More information is also available online at UMUCH’s website, www.umms.org/uch/health-services/breast-center/high-risk-clinic.