Shore Regional’s Clark center eyes breast cancer fight
EASTON — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and no group knows that better than the Clark Comprehensive Breast Center in Easton.
The center is part of the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health system and is focused on taking a holistic approach to detecting, treating and educating women about breast cancer.
The goal of the program is to identify and educate women who are at risk for breast cancer. In the past year, the center has treated 145 patients, according to its Annual Cancer Report; all but one were women.
Dr. Roberta Lilly, medical director for Clark Comprehensive Breast Center, said breast cancer is a big problem on the Eastern Shore.
“In Maryland in general, there is a higher level of many cancers, especially on the Eastern Shore,” Lilly said. “It is significantly higher. The reason for that is not clear, but one of the factors is the aging population.”
In addition to the aging of the population on the Shore, Lilly said there is a higher rate of obesity.
“Obesity has been directly linked to breast cancer development and reoccurrence,” Lilly said. “Obesity can definitely lead to promoting the growth of breast tumors.”
Lilly recommends that all women age 40 and older have a yearly mammogram. She said there was a recommendation that came out recently that said women could go every other year for the first 10 years, but due to the numbers on the Shore and the risk factors, she believes yearly exams are more beneficial.
“When we live in an environment where there is a higher than average risk. I just don’t want to take that chance,” Lilly said. “That is something I am not prepared to do at this point.”
Lilly encourages anyone with a lump or a concern to call the center for an appointment, or their primary care doctor or gynecologist to request an exam or a mammogram.
The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours available. During the week, the center offers walk-in screenings.
The center also offers free screening mammograms and breast exams for uninsured and underinsured women, ages 20 to 39 and over 64, who meet income guidelines.
Lilly attributes the survival rate for breast cancer to early detection, mammograms and advances in testing. She said the center performs 400 to 500 mammograms weekly.
“We know there is a correlation between the size of the tumor and the chances it is going to move into the lymph nodes — and the more lymph nodes involved, the poorer the low-term survival is,” Lilly said. “It is just one of those things that if it is detected early, the longterm survival is excellent. I sometimes use the word ‘curable’ because the fiveyear survival is in the 95 percent rate, whereas if it spreads through the body, that drops to 40 percent.”
To detect breast cancer, women have to have a mammogram. She said to detect breast cancer solely by touch, the lump would need to be almost an inch in size.
She said with screening, doctors now have the ability to see lumps as small as 2 millimeters.
Lilly said there also have been further advancements in mammographies recently that are enabling doctors to go beyond simple compression.
“The latest and the greatest that we have really got into the 3-D mammography,” Lilly said. “That is essentially like a mammogram, when you come in you will still get the same two positions. The difference is the arm actually moves and takes a serious of pictures to capture a three-dimensional image of the breast tissue.”
For additional Information about available breast health services or to schedule an appointment, call the Clark Comprehensive Breast Center at 410-820-9400
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health officially kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month Thursday, Oct. 5. The tree is decorated with pink ribbons and gets lit up at night to serve as a reminder for people to get regular cancer screenings. UM Shore Regional Health staff and breast cancer survivors are pictured in front of the tree outside the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton.