The Breast Health Center, named for a local Bronxville resident, is the Radiology Department’s crown jewel. Led by Lynn Chinitz, MD, a board-certified radiologist devoted to finding breast cancer as early as possible, the Center offers patients diagnostic and screening mammograms and bone density imaging in a new spa-like setting at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville.
In November 2014, the Center opened to the public. Patients can take comfort in knowing that the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center is a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence. The American College of Radiology (ACR) recognized the Center with the honor given to facilities that voluntarily seek and earn ACR certification in mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy, breast ultrasound and breast MRI. Obtaining those certifications is a team effort, as certification is dependent on the training, skill and continuing medical education of staff including physicians and technologists.
The Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center has been designated a Pink Ribbon Facility, a distinction given to digital breast imaging centers that use leading-edge technology to improve the mammography experience.
Lynn Chinitz, MD, Director of the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group,and Preya Ananthakrishnan, MD, FACS, breast surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group, consult about a patient with an abnormal finding on her mammogram.
It has also earned a three-year accreditation and commendation as a “Best Practice” from the American College of Surgeons’ National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). This is another distinction available only to breast centers that voluntarily undergo a stringent assessment for performance and compliance with NAPBC standards for breast care, including screening and imaging quality, achievement of high performance standards, and a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and ongoing improvement plans. The NAPBC examines performance in every discipline of breast imaging, including screening mammography, diagnostic mammography, ultrasound and MRI, along with every type of biopsy.
One of the requirements for NAPBC accreditation is the presence of a nurse navigator. NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital offers this service to help cancer patients obtain all of the specialty services they need and integrates the nurse navigator into the treatment plan following diagnosis.
“The nurse navigator program is personalized and flexible to help the patient handle the challenges of cancer care. For instance, she can help the patient make other doctors’ appointments. It’s like having a family member with you, but a family member who’s experienced, and trained to know the right questions to ask,” says Lynn Chinitz, MD, Director of the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group.
Dr. Chinitz and her team believe women with average risk should have an annual mammogram starting at the age of 40.
“The incidence of breast cancer in women in their 40s is lower than it is in older women. However, one in six breast cancers do occur in women ages of 40–49,” Dr. Chinitz says. “We also want to remind patients that 75 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of it and are not considered to be at high risk.”
Improving Care Through Precision Imaging
The Center offers a variety of services including breast MRI, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsy, digital mammography and bone density testing. A new generation of imaging technology is now available at the Center providing increased accuracy and efficiency. Three-dimensional mammography offers a more complete picture of breast health.
“Three-dimensional mammography takes multiple images of the breast and allows us to, in essence, scroll through the breast tissue from top to bottom or side to side, eliminating some of the overlap inherent in two-dimensional imaging,” says Lauren Friedlander, MD, a board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center, and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group.
“Enhanced views of breast tissue enable us to find more invasive cancers than we can with 2-D mammography. Finding cancers that might otherwise go undetected pays obvious benefits in terms of treating the disease in its earlier, more survivable stages,” adds Dr. Friedlander.
Although research is still being conducted into determining which patient populations reap the most benefit from 3-D mammography, the modality is known to be beneficial for women with dense breast tissue. Breast tissue is composed of a mix of fibroglandular and fatty tissue; the more of the former that’s present, the denser the tissue. Properly identifying cancers and other masses in dense breast tissue poses a challenge for radiologists using two-dimensional mammography; when healthy breast tissue overlaps, it may create the appearance of abnormal tissue.
Three-dimensional mammography makes it much easier for radiologists to identify overlapping areas, improving the accuracy of screenings and diagnoses and reducing the need for follow-up imaging.
Designing an Environment for More Compassionate Care
Lynn Chinitz, MD, Director of the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center, and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group, is assisted by Kella Bolton while performing a stereotactic breast biopsy.
Prior to the opening of the Center, NYP/Lawrence’s breast health program shared space with the rest of the Radiology Department, but the new Center offers a dedicated location for breast health patients.
“We felt we needed a more intimate place for all our patients to go where they can feel comfortable,” Dr. Chinitz says.
The focus on patient comfort is evident from the moment patients enter the Center. The modern and thoughtfully decorated environment features private dressing and consultation rooms, TVs, reading material, music and art to help put patients at ease.
“The entire facility is built around the idea of making an inherently stressful time as comfortable an experience as it can be,” Dr. Friedlander says. “Physical interaction and personal contact help relieve a lot of anxiety. Beyond the physical environment, the fact that we discuss results with patients helps make the experience less stressful.”
“We treat each patient with respect and kindness and try our best to address their individual needs.”
— Elise Desperito, MD, board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Clinical Professor of Radiology and Associate Director of the Radiology Residency Program at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group
Elise Desperito, MD, board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Clinical Professor of Radiology and Associate Director of the Radiology Residency Program at Columbia University Medical Center, and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group, comforts a patient during an ultrasound of her breast performed by ultrasound technologist Barbara Brown, RDMS.
This kind of personal attention is one of the hallmarks of the Center. All staff members, from the front desk staff to the physicians, go out of their way to make patients feel safe and well cared for.
“What we do as breast imagers is often different from what other radiologists might do,” says Elise Desperito, MD, board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Clinical Professor of Radiology and Associate Director of the Radiology Residency Program at Columbia University Medical Center, and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group. “If you go in for a knee X-ray, there’s a good chance you will never meet the radiologist. If you have mammogram or an ultrasound, you definitely have interaction with the imager.”
Seamless Coordination Between Oncologists, Radiologists and Surgeons
After a cancer diagnosis, radiologists work closely with the patient’s primary care physician and other physicians at the Center to plan a course of treatment.
Lauren Canter Friedlander, MD, board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group, is one of the Columbia radiologists who sees patients at the women’s imaging center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville.
“If I perform a biopsy that indicates the presence of cancer, I’ll usually call the referring physician and ask whether the physician would like to deliver this news to their patient, or if they prefer I do it,” Dr. Desperito says. “For women who’ve had a long-standing relationship with their primary care physician, hearing bad news from that trusted provider is sometimes easier.”
Betty Torres and Deoranee Budhram, admitting registrars at the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center, check in a patient.
The radiologist and nurse navigator begin guiding the patient through the treatment process immediately following diagnosis.
“All the treating physicians speak frequently,” says Preya Ananthakrishnan, MD, FACS, breast surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group. “A radiologist who diagnoses a breast cancer will often call me on the same day and tell me about the patient, who can come to my office and see me immediately.”
In some cases, the patient might need to see a medical oncologist rather than, or in addition to, a surgeon. Either way, the providers and nurse navigator coordinate visits, sparing patients additional anxiety.
Surgical Options that Minimize Physical and Mental Scars
Melissa Aquino, BS, RT(R)(M), lead radiology technologist for breast imaging, greets a patient preparing for a mammogram.
Ultimately, as important as it is for patients to feel comfortable, the Center’s most important goal is finding breast cancer as early, and as localized, as possible. Radiologists work closely with NYP/Lawrence surgeons to determine the best course of surgical treatment for breast cancer patients.
When possible, surgeons perform a lumpectomy, in which the surgeon removes only the tumor itself and a small margin of surrounding breast tissue. Oncoplastic reconstruction can eliminate any divots or dents in the breast caused by the lumpectomy itself.
Other times, the breast must be completely removed to reduce the chances the cancer will return. Mastectomy’s potential for negative psychological effects is well documented, so a procedure that preserves the appearance of the breast as much as possible while still being oncologically effective may be important for the patient’s emotional and physical well-being.
“Nipple-sparing mastectomy involves keeping the skin envelope, including the nipple and areola, but removing all underlying breast tissue,” Dr. Ananthakrishnan says. “We try to hide the scar under the breast so you can barely tell the patient has had surgery, much less a mastectomy.”
“Our referring physicians are thrilled to have such a comprehensive center for breast care. It makes the patients’ experiences and the physicians’ lives that much better because they’re not trying to put together a treatment plan involving oncologists, radiologists and surgeons from different places. It’s really nice when everything is cohesive and in one place.”
— Lauren Friedlander, MD, board-certified radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital and Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group
If patients desire breast reconstruction, it may be performed by skilled plastic surgeons at the time of the mastectomy. This collaboration can spare the patient an additional operation.
Prophylactic mastectomy may be considered as a preventive measure for women at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Collaboration Creates New Possibilities
Marie Savarese, RT(R) (M), mammography technologist, performs a 3-D mammogram on a patient.
In some cases, collaboration between surgeons and medical oncologists increases the treatment options available to a patient. For example, neoadjuvant therapy combines chemotherapy with breast surgery to improve outcomes.
“Certain patients with more advanced cancers or certain tumor subtypes may receive chemotherapy before surgery,” Dr. Ananthakrishnan says. “The goal is to shrink the tumor prior to operating on it to achieve negative margins, or to eliminate the need for follow-up surgeries. This approach also allows some patients to conserve the breast and have a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy.”
Encouraging Mutual Support and Education
Kella Bolton, BS, RT(R)(M)(CT), mammography technologist, performs a bone density test inside one of the Breast Health Center’s exam rooms.
The approach to patient care for those with a diagnosis of breast cancer is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary one at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence. The Hospital offers a monthly breast cancer support group, which is open to patients with all stages of the disease. This broad range of membership helps newly diagnosed patients learn and draw inspiration and support from those who have already gone through what they’re now experiencing.
“Our support group allows patients to talk to one another,” Dr. Ananthakrishnan says. “This type of communication can really improve a patient’s mental and spiritual outlook — they can see someone who’s been through it, and they have that person to turn to with any questions.”
Providing Care After the Cancer Is Gone
Patients who have completed their treatment are welcome to participate in NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital’s Cancer Survivorship Program, a service that helps survivors of all cancers understand what to expect after successful treatment. Examples of meeting topics include postcancer health needs, emotional support, discussion about regular checkups to detect any possible return of the disease, meditation and other whole-body wellness activities.
“I try to read every patient’s imaging on the spot while she’s here, and I do any necessary extra imaging during the same visit. This way no one goes home nervous; I’ll show her the finding and tell her what’s going on.”
— Lynn Chinitz, MD, Director of the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Columbia University Medical Center, and a member of ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group
Diagnosing Cancer, Caring for People
A year into its existence, the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center has the facility, the equipment, the surgical expertise and the programs necessary to provide excellent, comprehensive medical breast care, but it’s the Center’s people who provide the human touch that can be an overlooked aspect of total breast health and prevention.
“We’re small enough that we can give individual attention to everyone,” Dr. Chinitz says. “We’re also kind, considerate and compassionate. We don’t just treat the medical abnormality, we treat the whole person.”
For more information on the Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital, visit nyplawrence.org and click on “Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center” under “Programs & Services.”