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At Monongahela Valley Hospital’s State-of-the-Art Breast Center, Care is Highly Individualized
By Nancy Kennedy

Mammograms save lives. That’s the essential message that Natalie Furgiuele, M.D., F.A.C.S., breast surgeon at Monongahela Valley Hospital (MVH) wants women to hear, understand and act upon. As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is marked throughout October, Dr. Furgiuele is encouraging women to know their risk for breast cancer and take the appropriate actions for their individual circumstances. At Monongahela Valley Hospital, they will find exceptional care in a complete breast care service that provides state-of-the-art diagnostic technologies, the latest treatment therapies, and highly individualized care, all in one convenient location.

“We have a wonderful breast care program,” Dr. Furgiuele says. “We are one of the only hospitals in the region to perform a formal risk assessment on every woman before her mammogram, and we do it every year. A risk assessment identifies the woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer; it determines the best screening approach for her and guides the decision about whether or not she will benefit from genetic testing. If there are red flags in the risk assessment then we offer genetic testing right then. It’s essential to update it every year because your family history can change.”

The Breast Center offers every diagnostic and treatment modality, including 3-D mammography, sonography, breast MRI plus the capability of performing a biopsy in any of those if needed. The Hospital makes it as convenient as possible for busy women to get their mammograms, offering walk-in 3D mammograms at two locations – the Carroll Township campus and HealthPlex Imaging in Rostaver Township – and at convenient hours, including Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

As Director of the Breast Center at MVH, and a breast surgeon with 35 years of experience, Dr. Furgiuele is well aware that women need the right information in order to make the best decisions for themselves. She acknowledges that there has been confusion among women about the recommendations for screening mammograms, and she is eager to clarify those recommendations. “I encourage women to follow these recommendations of the American Society of Breast Surgeons: (ASBrS):

  • Women age 25 and older are advised to undergo a formal risk assessment for breast cancer. Based on the assessment, genetic testing may be suggested. People are born with the BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) genes. When functioning normally, these genes do not pose a risk to their health. However, some people experience mutations of these genes; those with BRCA mutations have a 50-85 percent chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Women who have an average risk of breast cancer should undergo yearly screening mammography beginning at age 40. Women with non-dense breast tissue should begin annual screening mammograms at age 40. The preference is 3-D mammograms for women of average risk. ASBrS advises those with dense breast tissue to have annual 3-D mammograms with supplemental imaging: MRI.
  • Women with a higher risk for breast cancer are advised to undergo yearly screening mammography and yearly supplemental imaging; an MRI is favored. A strong family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter) creates a higher risk. Women who may be susceptible due to heredity should consider an MRI beginning at age 25 and an annual 3-D mammogram at age 30. ASBrS recommends the introduction of supplemental imaging at age 35 when recommended by the physician.

ASBrS also provides guidelines for women with a prior history of breast cancer. For those who had breast cancer under age 50 with dense breasts, ASBrS recommends an annual 3-D mammogram with access to annual supplemental imaging. Women with prior history of breast cancer who are over age 50 with non-dense breasts are encouraged to have annual 3-D mammograms.

“The key message that every woman should remember is that mammograms save lives,” Dr. Furgiuele says. “When breast cancer is detected and treated in its earliest stages, the outcomes are more positive. If you fall within one of the ASBrS groups, get an annual mammogram and the supplemental testing if necessary. Know your risks and get your mammograms. Do it for yourself and your loved ones.”

To schedule a risk assessment and mammogram at Monongahela Valley Hospital, call (724) 258-1616.

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