As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches, UPMC Altoona is getting ready to officially open its new Magee-Women’s Specialty Center.The hospital says the expansion, which more than $1.8 million will provide enhanced and comprehensive breast health services.

The center at Station Medical offers mammograms, breast ultrasounds, breast biopsies and genetic counseling. Women can consult with specialists at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, through real-time video conferencing.

The health system expanded the area for these  services by 4,000 square feet and created a separate, private  entrance.

Dr. Dianna Craig, Medical Director, UPMC Altoona Breast Health Services says,”The new center is allowing the patient a more comfortable environment to deal with stress and anxiety issues that they come to a center like this with, concerning their breast and if it’s something to worry about or not.”

The surgeon says the enhancements include nearly a quarter of a million dollars in  medical equipment.  The 3D mammography unit can now do biopsies and new technology can rapidly determine whether the samples are suitable for laboratory testing.

“We can do minimally invasive biopsies without having to take the patient to the OR , we can actually do the lymph node dissection, and if we sample some nodes, sometimes you don’t have to do the full axillary node dissection that you used to do,” she explained.

 And she added, “It’s nice to look back at older treatments and see how we’ve progressed.”
One of Dr. Craig’s patients, 79-year-old Carolyn Sparks is the third generation on her mother’s side of the family to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When she mentioned would I be interested in genetic testing, I immediately said yes and through that I  had the genetic testing done and then they also data bank it. You have to give permission,” Carolyn says, adding,”If it can increase their databank with someone with my history then I’m all for it.”

Carolyn’s grateful for technology that showed she doesn’t have any known breast cancer genes, the mammography that diagnosed her cancer early, and the treatment that’s keeping her alive.

“I will almost be 2 years cancer free in November, so I’m very blessed,” she says, smiling.

Dr. Craig is optimistic that breast cancer therapies and survivorship will continue improving. “Treatments themselves  have become more specialized and I think that the wave of the future is going to be more, ‘what is the tumor biology and how is that going to determine what’s done with that patient,’ ” she says.

Both  wish more women would take advantage of all of the advances against breast cancer, starting with  early detection.

Dr. Craig says, “They need to get their mammograms and do self breast exams because if you can catch it before it’s progressed out of the breast, it’s curable.”

As Carolyn puts it, “Those gals, need to get in, get the mammogram and catch it early.”

The breast health center is already seeing patients, but its grand opening is scheduled for Monday October 2. from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The public is welcome.