17:00 PM

New Breast Risk Assessment Program and High Risk Clinic Available at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital

WINFIELD, IL – Family history, breast density, and age during first pregnancy are all potential risk factors associated with breast cancer. Learning that one is at higher risk may leave a patient confused, worried and wondering what to do next. New clinics at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospitals offer patients a breast cancer risk assessment, counseling, detection strategies and risk reduction strategies.

The Northwestern Medicine Breast Risk Assessment Program and High Risk Clinic is a central point of contact for those patients who may be at increased risk for developing breast cancer. The first step is a comprehensive breast evaluation to determine risk level. Spring S. Piatek, APN, an advanced oncology clinical nurse specialist and certified breast care nurse will review personal and family health history and perform a clinical breast exam.

"The screening recommendations for each woman may vary depending upon the individualized risk assessment,” said Sharmi Jayachandran, MD, diagnostic radiologist and co-leader of the High Risk Clinic at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital “Our program can help tailor those recommendations to ensure proper care for the women in our community.”

Screening recommendations include frequency and type of mammogram such as 3D Tomosynthesis and if supplemental tests like Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS) or breast MRI are needed. If appropriate, arrangements will be made for genetic testing, medications and consultation regarding prophylactic surgery. The team will coordinate care with the patient’s primary care physician; and patients with moderate to high risk will be offered ongoing management and surveillance at the High Risk Breast Clinic.

“There are many options for patients at high risk of breast cancer to be proactive about protecting their health,” said Karen Hou, MD, diagnostic radiologist and co-leader of the High Risk Clinic at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “We want women to be fully educated about their needs and understand that recommendations and options may change over time.”

In addition to continued imaging surveillance, the program educates patients on how to properly check breasts for changes and offers advice on modifiable risk factors, such as diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use. Social work and emotional support services help women cope with the psychological impact and stress of knowing they are at high risk.

“Many people are aware that a family history of breast cancer increases risk, but they aren’t sure what do with this information,” said Noemi Sigalove, MD, breast surgeon and co-leader of the High Risk Clinic at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “Our goal is to help clarify confusion regarding screening and management, and keep women a step ahead through prevention and early detection of breast cancer.”

The program has been an oasis for Northwestern Medicine patient Therese Little of West Chicago. After experiencing a number of health problems, Little compiled a family health history and discovered that several close relatives had breast cancer. Following her primary care physician’s recommendation, Little contacted the Northwestern Medicine Breast Risk Assessment Program.

“I want to be proactive about this and not wait to come up positive at some point when it is too far gone,” said Little. “I was very worried, but after meeting with the team at the High Risk Clinic, I now know what to watch for and we have a plan in place. Knowing I have these resources available and people looking out for me has alleviated my anxiety.”

The Breast Risk Assessment is designed for women who meet any of the following criteria:
  • Multiple family members with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • First-degree relative (mother, father, sister, daughter) with a diagnosis of breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • Breast biopsy with pathology showing atypical cells or lobular carcinoma in situ
  • Have a known genetic mutation that increases the risk of developing breast cancer
  • History of prior chest radiation therapy
“Women should not be afraid to learn their risk of breast cancer. Fully understanding your risk and learning more about preventative measures can lessen anxiety and prepare you for the future,” said Mary Ahn, MD, breast surgeon and co-leader of the High Risk Clinic at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital. “All women should learn their unique mammography screening recommendation.”

The Northwestern Medicine High Risk Breast Clinic is located at 25 N. Winfield Road, Suite 410 at Central DuPage Hospital, and 351 Delnor Dr., Suite 200 at Delnor Hospital. An evaluation can be requested by calling 630.933.RISK (7475).