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Construction Set to Begin on State-of-the-Art Breast Health Center at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital

Construction of a new breast health center at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital is scheduled to begin this month, with a planned opening of October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The new center will include state-of-the-art mammography, new breast health equipment, a comprehensive team approach and more. Funding for the roughly 6,000 square-foot buildout is being supported by the Northwestern Memorial Foundation.

“DeKalb County has a 65 percent breast cancer screening rate compared to the state average of 78 percent,” says Catherine Wierz, director of Philanthropy at Northwestern Memorial Foundation. “By creating the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Breast Health Center, our goal is to increase the screening rate for people in DeKalb County.”

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, but routine screening and early detection significantly improves five-year survival rates. According to the National Cancer Institute, when breast cancer is diagnosed while in a localized area, the five-year survival rate is 98.8 percent. When breast cancer has already metastasized when diagnosed, the five-year survival rate drops to 27.4 percent.

“The standard of care within the Northwestern Medicine health system is to provide a comprehensive breast health center; this has been lacking in DeKalb County,” says Jay Anderson, president of Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals. “The community has really rallied around this project. I consistently hear ‘we need this.’ We are committed to providing a comprehensive program which ensures full access to the leading care Northwestern Medicine can provide.”

The new center will be located on the first floor of the Kishwaukee Hospital Medical Office Building and will include:

  • 3D mammography – two machines will be up and running to meet demand

  • Whole breast ultrasound imaging, stereotactic biopsy, and bone density rooms

  • New breast health equipment

  • A modern waiting area with a nourishment station

  • Private changing area with a sub-waiting room

  • Private patient corridor

  • New staff area, conference room, radiologist reading room and consult rooms

“Our vision is to create a dedicated, private space to help minimize anxiety and maximize the patient experience,” says Jeff Dunn, director of Diagnostic Imaging Services at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals. “We’re also organizing the best care team to establish best practices and monitor clinical outcomes.”

This is being coordinated under the guidelines of the National Accreditation Program of Breast Centers (NAPBC). The NAPBC is an accreditation program administered by the American College of Surgeons and will require participation from the breast center’s surgeons, radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nursing, mammography technologists, genetics and many additional resources to address breast center leadership, clinical services, research, community outreach, professional education and quality improvement.

A breast nurse navigator has also been hired to further enhance services for patients. They serve as a bridge between diagnostics and clinical services so the patient has a seamless transition.

“When I call patients and tell them about their newfound diagnosis, we don’t realize it, but at that very moment, everything in the life of that person has completely changed,” says Nitzet Velez, MD, medical director of the Breast Program at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. “A breast health center cannot operate without a nurse navigator. They’re the point of contact for patients who receive a difficult diagnosis and can help guide them to next steps or needed resources. We want to ensure the women of DeKalb County have access to the finest breast health care and services.”