Call in to speak with the host
Please tune in to hear more from Marsha Schmit, RN, BSN, a nurse, and Hurley’s Breast Health Nurse Navigator—the only one in Flint, MI -- providing the full spectrum of care for patients diagnosed with breast cancer.
This Think Healthy, Think Hurley interview was brought to you by Hurley Medical Center, the region's premiere public teaching hospital in Flint, Michigan. This Blog TalkRadio is another way Hurley is reaching out in educating the greater Genesee County Community about health and wellness. For more than a century, Hurley has been providing the most comprehensive clinical and compassionate care for patients and their families. I am your host, Ilene Cantor and today's topic is Breast Cancer. Joining us now is Marsha Schmit, a nurse and Hurley's Breast Health Nurse Navigator. The first one in Genesee County, providing the full spectrum of care for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Thank you for joining us Marsha.
Thank you for having me.
Please tell us what a navigator is, Marsha?
A navigator is a person, and they can be either a nurse or a lay person. In my case, I'm a registered nurse with a Bachelor's degree, and what I do is from the time of diagnosis, I work with women to educate them, advocate for them, support them in whatever area they may need. So sometimes, when someone is diagnosed just the learning processes, it is important. Women can have a number of questions. They can also have financial issues and sometimes even prior to diagnosis, sometimes they have difficulty creating the funds to get mammogram. So part of my role as well is to help generate resources to help women financially.
For those that are not aware, of course, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. For those that don't know what it is, what is breast cancer, Marsha?
Breast cancer is a group of abnormal cells that duplicate and reproduce over time can potentially invade the breast tissue and if left untreated, it can actually invade other organs like the bone, brain, liver and lung. So basically, it is just abnormal cells that start to duplicate and create a tumor. Tumors can be both benign and malignant, but breast cancer would actually be a group of malignant cells.
What are some of the ways diagnosis happens?
It can be accomplished in a number of ways. First of all, a woman could potentially palpate an abnormal lump that is why it is extremely important for women to become familiar with their breast over the course of a month, their cycles, so that they know what lumps and bumps are kind of normal, and what might be potentially abnormal. It takes about a million cells to form a centimeter and that is typically when someone can actually palpate a lump. Another way is that woman could go for a screening mammogram and if there are some calcifications or something that may appear abnormal, they may go back for a diagnostic mammogram, and sometimes at that time, a tumor can be actually diagnosed, as well as MRI, sometimes we are using MRIs to help, add additional information to questionable mammogram and so sometimes an MRI can actually pick up a group or clumping of abnormal cells.
What are some of the most common treatments and procedures available today, Marsha?
First of all, I would have to say that treatment is not a cookie cutter. It is not -- if you have cancer then that, but we looked at the patient's pathology and we determine whether or not surgery would be the first step or perhaps chemotherapy. But typically, women will either have surgery, they can have chemo, radiation, anti-hormone therapy, and if someone was diagnosed with a HER2/neu, and that is a cancer marker type of overgrowth of protein-9 cancer, they may be a candidate for Herceptin, which is an additional treatment that we use for women that are HER2/neu positive. If a patient's breast cancer was ER/PR, and that is
estrogen-receptor or progesterone-receptor positive, we would add what is called an anti-hormone pill or sometimes referred to as chemoprevention, but a pill that women might take everyday for five years, and if woman had breast conservation, which means we do not necessarily remove their entire breast, but just remove the cancer cells in the healthy surrounding tissue, they might have that along with radiation and depending on the size of the tumor, or whether or not lymph nodes were involved, we may add chemotherapy. So, there is a number of different ways and it is really very specific to the individual.
Tell us a little bit about the part of family history and genetics play, Marsha?
Very, very few breast cancers are actually genetically derived. Most breast cancer is either environmental or familial, which simply means we obtained that due to the exposures that perhaps we have from environmental issues, and when we say familial exposure of the family to do things like a bad water source or perhaps we lived by a farm with pesticides or something of that nature. But genetic cancers can actually be where mutation occurs in one of two, BRCA1 or BRCA2, and if someone actually had a genetic mutation, their parents, they could actually pass it on to a family member. So someone who is at high risk, it would benefit from our genetics counselor appointment and then having genetic blood work taken or we now can also do it with swish-and-spit test, but to actually test if there is genetic involvement and then we can help start earlier surveillance for family members, who could be at high risk.
And the importance of mammograms, we can understate that or over stated enough digital mammograms available at Hurley, Saturday appointments, how women that are listening and man as well, the importance of getting a mammogram.
So often, women will put mammograms off sometimes and they might even feel a lump and they kind of disregard it, but mammograms are extremely important to establish. What the breasts looked like from one year to the next, so that we can see any changes that occur and intervene sooner if things are left undiagnosed or untreated, you know, sometimes we are looking at metastatic disease that could have otherwise been taken care of and easily resolved in a much earlier stage. So I would say the importance of getting your digital mammogram, come to Hurley, get your mammogram. Also, make sure you are checking your own breasts and seeing your physician annually for a clinical breast exam. The combination of those three things will help ensure that any changes are diagnosed early, easily treatable and you want to live healthy long life. If left untreated, you put yourself at risk for much more complicated treatments and your long-term survival advantage may not be nearly as good.
Tell us the importance of joining a support group. I know you are involved with the local support group. For those that are listening and don't know about it, if you could talk a little bit about the support group that would be important.
In Genesee County, we do collaborate with Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute and there is a social worker, Rhonda Byrne-Rice, and myself, Marsha Schmit, who meet the first and third Tuesday of every month from 3:00 to 4:30 in the boardroom at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute and we have various topics that alter change from month to month, but we really talked about what is breast cancer, treatment, different ways to take care of ourselves, and we also have added a recent metastatic support group that meets the second and fourth Thursday from 2:30 to
4:00 p.m., and that is for women that perhaps have metastatic disease or have a secondary recurrence. But there has been a number of studies that are proven that support groups actually increased the long-term survival advantage of women that participate because of the access to the support and the information to help better change their lives and make good healthy lifestyle changes, and just also reaching out to someone who has been in your shoes, just to get that kind of support and love to help courageously move along the journey of treatment and recovery.
And finally, what would you say the best advice you could give a patient recently diagnosed and the importance that they know they are not alone.
You know what I think the most important thing is when you received that diagnosis is that you take a couple of good deep breaths. Breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, slow everything down, immediately, we see cancer in bold letters. We give that way too much power, but we have to realize that you know, through clinical trials and all of the research and advocacy that is going on, there is wonderful treatment most of the time, cancer can be easily treated, women will have a few bumps in the road, but they can get on the other side of it. They need to ask lots of questions, and a lot of times it is really not as bad as it sounds. Just remember that darkness is always followed by light. So trust that each new day brings light and brings hope and possibility and that they can handle that. We women are pretty resilient. So, with the support and the resources that we have at Hurley Medical Center, I think most women can do quite well. It does not mean there won't be challenges, but we are right here in their corner to help them every step of the way.
Thank you so much for your time. It is greatly appreciated. Marsha Schmit, Hurley's Breast Health Nurse Navigator, the first one in Genesee County. This Think Healthy, Think Hurley interview was brought to you by Hurley Medical Centre. If you would like to follow Marsha Schmit's blog and learn more about Hurley's Breast Health Navigator Program, then go to hurleyblog.com.
Sorry we couldn't complete your registration. Please try again.
Please enter your email to finish creating your account.
old-style code for hosted blogs
300 x 295
400 x 370
640 x 550
Receive a personalized list of podcasts based on your preferences.