DeKALB – Medical experts hope plans to add a $4.2 million breast health center at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital will increase DeKalb County’s low breast cancer screening rate.
Northwestern Medicine has begun construction on the 6,000 square-foot center, which is planned to be open for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, according to a news release. Hospital President Jay Anderson said the community has rallied around the project, which is being funded by the Northwestern Memorial Foundation.
“The standard of care within the Northwestern Medicine Health System is to provide a comprehensive breast health center,” Anderson said. “This has been lacking in DeKalb County.”
Data show there is a local need. Local breast cancer screening rates have fallen below the state and national average. DeKalb County’s breast cancer screening rate is 65 percent; the statewide average is 78 percent, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 237,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and the disease claims about 41,000 lives each year, according to the CDC. The same data shows 2,100 men are diagnosed and 450 die each year.
Early detection of breast cancer can greatly increase survivability as opposed to finding it after it has spread to other areas of the body, according to the National Cancer Institute.
However, women in rural communities in particular tend to have lower screening rates, in large part due to anxiety about results and the lack of privacy during the screening process, said Jeff Dunn, director of Diagnostic Imaging Services at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital.
“I think the most important thing is being able to provide a more private space,” Dunn said. “We’re going to have to do a better job at getting into the edges of the community.”
Hospital officials are planning to address concerns about privacy as well as provide the equipment needed to help physicians spot cancer early. The center will be located on the first floor of the Kishwaukee Hospital Medical Office Building, 1 Kish Hospital Drive.
Additions will include two 3-D mammography machines, whole breast ultrasound imaging, a private changing area and private patient corridor, and new waiting and staff areas designed to provide a more comfortable and calming atmosphere.
Dr. Alan Wan, medical oncologist at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Cancer Center, said he hopes the hospital’s focus on privacy and comfort encourages women to be screened earlier and more often. He said he has found more advanced, incurable cases of breast cancer in DeKalb County patients than in other areas.
“A more enhanced experience for ladies undergoing the process encourages them to be more compliant with the screening process, which is not very comfortable for patients to begin with,” Wan said.
Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital also has created a position to bridge the gap between diagnosis and clinical services. Kim Aldis, former director of oncology for the hospital, has taken on a new role as breast nurse navigator.
Aldis said she hopes to lessen the fear associated with taking the next steps after a diagnosis.
“The nurse navigator role will be really to help connect patients to resources within the community,” Aldis said. “There is a lot of anxiety that goes into if you have an abnormal mammogram. Dr. Google is the woman’s worst nightmare, and so just making sure you give them credible references and resources so they can look up information.”
The center will be coordinated under the guidelines of the National Accreditation Program of Breast Centers, a program administered by the American College of Surgeons.
“It brings in the caregivers, surgeons to implement best practices,” Dunn said about the accreditation. “That’s just as important as the brick and mortar.”