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The first step in conquering cancer is actually knowing that you have the disease. Time is of the essence, so an early diagnosis and timely treatment increase the chances of a positive outcome.

That is why screening and genetic testing are so important when it comes to breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in women. Regular screenings lead to earlier detection, which enables the clinical teams at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre to determine the best course of treatment right away.

“The CIBC Breast Assessment Centre is an Ontario Breast Screening Program site which offers expert care to women with breast concerns,” explains Kowuthamie Tharma, a Genetic Counsellor at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. “It’s recommended that a woman at average risk begins screening with mammograms every two years starting at age 50.”

Are you heading to university or college this year, and in need of some assistance? If you are a young woman facing cancer that is currently enrolled (or enrolling this year) in a Canadian post-secondary institution, Pink Pearl Canada invites you to apply to their $1,000 Post-Secondary Education Scholarship. The application intake is open until March 4, 2020. To apply, please visit pinkpearlcanada.org/scholarship-application/. If you have any questions regarding your eligibility, please contact Sarah at scholarship@pinkpearlcanada.org.

The CIBC Breast Assessment Centre at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre is celebrating five years of being the most comprehensive assessment facility of its type in the region.

“The concept behind the opening of the Centre in 2014 was to provide a single point of coordinated access for women who require diagnostic assessment for breast concerns,” explains Kathleen Bell, Clinical Manager of the CIBC Breast Assessment Centre.

“With the promise of many more milestones to come, we look forward to seeing what the next five years will bring.” – Kathleen Bell

Specialists from multiple disciplines collaborate to ensure that all patients receive the individualized care they require.

“It’s extremely gratifying to work one-on-one with patients and see them through the different stages of their journey,” says Nurse Navigator Elizabeth Vandesompele.

Technology of tomorrow

The Centre stays on the leading edge of technology and the team is looking forward to new equipment that will allow for digital breast tomosynthesis (sometimes referred to a 3D mammography) and contrast-enhanced mammography in the near future.

“We are pleased to offer a wide range of breast screening and assessment services to women, including new and advanced technologies, in order to provide the most accurate and timely information possible,” says Senior Technologist Kathie Lock.

“With the promise of many more milestones to come, we look forward to seeing what the next five years will bring,” says Kathleen.

The CIBC Breast Assessment Centre’s parking lot has been closed for hospital construction. Two free spots for clients are available on Concession Street, directly in front of the Centre’s front doors. Spots are signed, Breast Assessment Centre Parking Only. For Hospital parking information and rates, click here: https://bit.ly/2lIZj2C. City of Hamilton street parking is also available. Thank you for your patience. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause

HAMILTON — If breast cancer awareness has a season, it is surely autumn.

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and here in Hamilton the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation is sponsoring the Life After Breast Cancer Conference for people affected by any stage of breast cancer and their support network.

Registration is now open for this full-day conference, taking place Friday, Oct. 25 at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen’s. There’s a discount on admission for anyone registering before Sept. 30.

This highly-informative conference has taken place every two years since 2001 and typically attracts over 300 participants, many of whom are breast cancer survivors. It also draws people who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer but are still deeply impacted, such as survivors’ family and friends and people at higher risk of developing this disease for hereditary reasons.

This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Alexandra Ginty, the regional lead for cancer screening in Mississauga/Halton, a family doctor and hereditary high-risk breast cancer survivor. Dr. Ginty also has a masters degree in leadership and is an assistant professor at McMaster University. She has been dubbed `Dr. Both Sides’ because she has experienced cancer as both a physician and patient.

Dr. Ginty underwent a double mastectomy and lost her hair from cancer treatment. After discovering she carried a genetic BRCA mutation – associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer – she elected to pre-emptively have her uterus and ovaries removed. Her passion for awareness and change is strong, and she is heavily involved in survivorship and on provincial advisory boards. Her book, Both Sides: When the Doctor Becomes the Cancer Patient, chronicles her story and offers poems and healing tools to help people manage adversity.

The Life After Breast Cancer Conference features workshops, expert guest speakers, information tables, community resources and lunch. Topics cover a wide range of issues including cancer genetics, the role exercise can play in recovery, the impact of a cancer diagnosis on adolescents and young adults, managing lymphedema, cannabis and cancer, strategies to promote mental health, sexuality, breast reconstruction, nipple tattooing, and ways to manage fear of recurrence and survivor guilt.

Breast cancer survivor Kathie Ward has attended every Life After Breast Cancer conference, and has been on the event’s organizing committee for the past nine conferences. The Hamilton Mountain resident was diagnosed over 20 years ago and treated with surgery and chemotherapy.

“I’m 20 years on the other side of breast cancer, but I still find the conference’s speakers and workshops extremely helpful and informative,” says Ward, a retired registered nurse at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.

“This conference is ideal for people any stage of breast cancer, at any stage of their life.”

Registration cost is $40 before Sept. 30 and $45 after. To register, visit www.hamiltonhealth.ca/LABC call 905-575-6398.

By Dr. Callista Phillips and Leslie Maskell, co-chairs of the Life After Breast Cancer Conference. Dr. Phillips is a medical oncologist at the Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington and the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton where she treats breast cancer and has a special interest in survivorship. Maskell is a registered nurse and gastrointestinal disease site team coordinator at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.

By HHS Share

Sitting in a dark room with several computer screens, staff members and technologists enter one-by-one to talk to the radiologist. They’re focused on reviewing images of all the patients’ mammograms from that day.

The low light helps Dr. Kavita Dhamanaskar and other radiologists to pick out subtle abnormalities in these complex images, whether it is plain film radiographs, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

In breast imaging, this involves focusing on mammogram images to detect early signs of breast cancer in both men and women.

Kavita joined Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) 15 years ago as a staff radiologist. More recently, she took up administrative roles while continuing to provide clinical service, primarily at Juravinski Hospital.

She was appointed the medical lead of the CIBC Breast Assessment Centre (BAC) to create efficient, high-quality care for patients with breast concerns.

Going paperless to speed up operations

Kavita made several positive changes to the workflow at BAC since she started in this role. She credits much of her success to a team of passionate individuals.

“I’m a tech-driven person and I wanted the BAC to reflect that,” says Kavita.

As an example, Kavita implemented a paperless system for reporting the screening studies. This led to significant improvements in workflow, reduced errors and paper clutter that made her staff happier they no longer needed to manage the paper trail.

Ultimately, it also improved the patient experience.

“As a physical space, the BAC was designed to be a beautiful and welcoming place,” says Kavita. “I want patients to feel that entire experience as soon as they walk in the door.”

Most of the individuals coming for breast cancer screening are otherwise healthy but still have anxiety about their tests. The calming surroundings help mitigate some of their concerns.

Taking a shine to Hamilton

Kavita immigrated to Canada from India to attend fellowship in Toronto. When it was time to find a job, HHS was the first and only place to which she applied.

It was an exploration, one that was well rewarded. And she is thankful for the numerous opportunities HHS and McMaster University, where she is associate professor of radiology, offered to her growth.

“Back then, I just thought it was the right place for me to work,” says Kavita. “Hamilton is such a wonderful city with so much happening, and the health care innovation we see regularly is a big draw. This is home for me.”

Kavita is also the site chief of diagnostic imaging at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre in addition to her role at the BAC.

“She works tirelessly to develop clinical guidelines based on best practices,” says Kathleen Bell, clinical manager for the BAC. “She ensures the BAC remains at the forefront of technology and expertise.”

A free bird

As the medical lead, Kavita does not take her influence for granted. She continues to network as hard as someone who’s trying to enter the field for the first time.

“I try to meet with as many people as possible, get to know them on a more personal level,” says Kavita. “Different people have different strengths and I try to understand what I’m good at and what I need others to help me with.”

Sometimes her advocacy helped get necessary technology upgrades in her department.

Her approachable personality is also on display as she interacts with various members of her team throughout the day to assess many patients that come in for exams.

Although she doesn’t feel like she’s different from anyone else, she was raised to stand out from the crowd.

“My father inspired me to be a free bird,” she says. “I was the first one in the family to consider medicine as a career and I haven’t looked back.”

HAMILTON — The CIBC Breast Assessment Centre is celebrating Concession Streetfest on June 8 with an Open House. Visitors can tour the Centre, meet its friendly, welcoming staff and enjoy refreshments, treats and giveaways. The Breast Assessment Centre is located at 711 Concession Street, between the Juravinski Hospital and the Juravinski Cancer Centre. Open house hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This facility is one of the most advanced assessment centres of its kind in Canada. Women and men with concerns about breast health are referred there for assessment by its team of experts. By consolidating the expertise of radiologists, surgeons and pathologists in one location, the Centre reduces the need for multiple appointments and minimizes the time spent waiting for test results.

The Centre is also an Ontario Breast Screening Program site, where women ages 50 – 74 can have their routine mammograms done. Mammograms for women in this age group are recommended every two years as part of a healthy lifestyle. Women attending the Open House are welcome to book their next mammogram appointment.

“Patients can often experience anxiety leading up to their visit to the Centre, whether they’re coming in for routine screening through the OBSP or they have symptoms or a family history that require a closer look by our team of experts,” said Kathleen Bell, the Centre’s manager. “Visiting the Centre, and learning more about services here, can hopefully help alleviate some of the stress they may be experiencing.”

Bell also encourages anyone interested in learning more about breast health and the Centre’s services to check out its new website, www.BAChamilton.ca. The website, also launching on June 8, features helpful, easy-to-understand information on the Centre’s wide range of services.

The website is aimed at:

  • Women and men referred to the Breast Assessment Centre by their healthcare providers. These patients may have a close family history of breast cancer or are experiencing symptoms that require further investigation.
  • Women getting a routine mammogram through the Ontario Breast Screening Program site at the Centre.
  • Healthcare providers looking for helpful resources such as referral forms.

“We’re very pleased to provide this important online resource for the public, breast patients and the healthcare providers who care for them,” said Bell. The website, made possible thanks to funding from the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation, includes information about the Centre’s services, breast health and awareness and understanding one’s diagnosis. There’s an FAQ/Resources section for the general public, as well as a resource section especially for healthcare providers. This  section is ideal for family doctors and nurse practitioners who refer patients to the Breast Assessment Centre, and includes a wide variety of resources including referral forms.

Photos of staff – including technologists, genetic counsellors and physicians – are featured throughout the site. “Visitors to our website will see the same friendly, welcoming faces when they arrive for their appointments,” said Bell.

For more information, or media inquiries, please contact:

Lise Diebel
Promotion/Communications Coordinator
Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Program
Office: 905-521-2100, ext. 79280
Cell: 905-741-6317
diebel@hhsc.ca

For more information on COVID-19 scheduling, visit