Accredidation on the horizon for Springfield Cancer Center

About 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer at some point in their lives, says Dr. Colleen Alexander, a Mercy Health general surgeon.

“A lot of patients don’t realize breast cancer is that common,” Alexander says.

Now Alexander is providing those who are diagnosed with the disease with even better, closer care by helping the Mercy Health – Springfield Cancer Center become a nationally accredited breast center.

“I think it’s really important to offer our patients good quality care close to home,” she says.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month wraps up this October, the hospital is continuing to make progress on its application for accreditation. That includes updating its breast program, better coordinating care for breast cancer patients and making sure that the most up-to-date technology is available to treat the disease.

The center meets many of the standards already, Alexander says, but must prove they are doing so.

In addition, the center is making other strides, such as presenting breast cancer patients to a multidisciplinary board comprised of medical professionals focused on different facets of care.

She also expects a multidisciplinary clinic to be up and running by the beginning of next year, so that newly diagnosed patients can easily and conveniently schedule appointments.

Alexander also is personally learning more oncoplastic surgery techniques and received additional training on it earlier this year. This has allowed her to provide patients with good cosmetic results in addition to the oncologic outcomes.

“We don’t have a lot of plastic surgery options locally,” says Alexander, who notes that some patients don’t want to travel to Columbus, Dayton or other locations away from Springfield for the procedure.

She also is excited to begin using new methods and techniques to mark breast tissue in a less invasive, more comfortable way for patients. Instead of using needle localization, Springfield Regional Medical Center soon will be using Magseed and Magtrace, which utilize a magnetic tracer, as well as a handheld magnetic detector.

“It should be a lot better for patients,” she says.

Local cancer patients also have had enriched options for care through the Springfield Cancer Center’s affiliation with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

The relationship began a year ago and is part of the Healthy State Alliance initiative between Mercy Health and Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center that was formed to take on the state’s critical health concerns. Those issues include cancer.

The Springfield Cancer Center launched this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a Pink Honor Walk that was held on Sept. 30. Almost 350 people registered to participate in the event, which included breast cancer support programs, vendors, music, a guest speaker, an after-party and an approximately one-mile walk around the Springfield Cancer Center and Springfield Regional Medical Center.

Proceeds went to the Breast Cancer Endowment Fund, Sisters United for Prevention and the Mercy Health Breast Patient Assistance Fund for Clark & Champaign Counties.

Women should conduct self-exams and speak with their primary care physician or other medial professional about when to begin breast screenings, Alexander says. Mammograms typically start between the ages of 40 and 50, but family history could trigger them earlier. Mercy also offers a mobile mammography unit and assistance programs to make it easier for all women.

“If it’s found early by screening, it’s much more treatable,” she says.

Offering up-to-date and comprehensive breast care locally is important to Alexander. She wants all women in the Springfield community to be able to get the best-possible attention.

“As a general surgeon, and particularly as a female general surgeon, it’s something very important in my practice,” Alexander says.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.