Written by Jesse Kawa
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 08:24
Oct. 24, 2012
By Michael Gaffney
At the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center the focus is on providing patients quality care with an emphasis on compassion — attributes that have helped the Stoneham-based facility thrive in a competitive health care industry since opening in June.
Sprawled across the fourth floor of the Stoneham Outpatient Campus at 41 Montvale Ave., the Comprehensive Breast Center offers patients access to the latest technological advances in the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of breast disease.
Hallmark Health spent $1.5 million to build the Comprehensive Breast Center, relocating staff and equipment previously headquartered at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital so they could work at one centralized location.
As part of the transition Hallmark Health also purchased state-of-the-art equipment that makes the facility stand out. One example is the Siemens MammoTest, a fully digital prone table biopsy system that uses a three-dimensional computerized image to view abnormal areas of the breast in detail and allows patients increased comfort when they undergo a breast biopsy.
John Seccareccio, director of imaging services and co-director of the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center, said the intent was to make care more efficient and convenient for patients.
“We provide all the services streamlined under one roof,” Seccareccio said.
The dedicated staff is another area where administrators stressed the center excels. Six surgeons operate out of the facility, including two who specialize in breast surgery.
The latest doctor to join the breast center surgical ranks is Diana Caragacianu, who recently completed several years of advanced education and medical training in surgical oncology with a specialty in cancer-related breast surgery, endocrine malignancies and melanoma.
Going back to the focus on compassionate care, Nurse Navigator Shelly Beckley is there to coordinate care for the patient every step of the way.
A nurse practitioner, Beckley works closely with an inter-disciplinary treatment team to assure timely access of scheduled appointments and to provide emotional support to patients and their families.
Elisa Scher, system director of oncology services and co-director of the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center, explained that the addition of the nurse navigator is the first position of that kind for Hallmark.
Scher said Beckley plays a vital role educating patients about their breast disease diagnoses and available treatment options so they make informed decisions.
“Whether it’s a benign test or cancer, having a nurse practitioner in this capacity who can be there for patients is critical,” Scher said.
A team effort
With the Boston area home to so many world-class cancer centers, why should patients opt to seek their treatment at the Comprehensive Breast Center?
Caragacianu, who arrived at the breast center in August, said the doctors and nurses at the facility are extremely invested in the health of their patients.
Whether patients come in with breast cancer or another serious breast disease, Caragacianu said the breast center has the resources available to provide patients the care they need.
Some of the services at the center include diagnostic digital mammography, breast ulstrasound, stereotactic and ultrasound guided biopsies, breast cyst and fine needle aspirations, galactography, surgery consults, a Lymphedema specialist and access to social workers.
Should a tumor turn out to be cancerous, medical oncology and chemotherapy are located in the same Stoneham Outpatient Campus building as the breast center, with the radiation department across the street.
One aspect that Caragacianu said is particularly special about the breast center is the empathy shown to patients.
Caragacianu said the large cancer centers in Boston are terrific, but because of the sheer size and volume of patients coming through the doors they don’t have the same personal touch as the Comprehensive Breast Center.
“We treat our patients like our family here,” Caragacianu said.
Timeliness of care is another advantage at the center, according to Caragacianu. Concerned patients can come in and be seen by a doctor without an appointment, while they might have to wait a few days to receive the same service at Dana Farber or Mass General Hospital.
“I’m there to discuss all the possibilities of what an abnormality means, and to go over whether a patient needs a biopsy,” Caragacianu said, adding that pathology results are available within 24-48 hours.
With so many resources centralized, Scher said the goal is for patients to walk out of the breast center with answers to any questions regarding their disease and treatment options.
“We’re off to a great start here, we’re very proud of what our team has accomplished so far,” Caragacianu said.
Written by Jesse Kawa
Friday, 19 October 2012 08:10
Oct. 18, 2012
By Steven Ryan
Even the most aware have their blind spots. And sometimes lost in the sea of pink in October is that male breast cancer, while “relatively uncommon,” is not “rare.”
“It’s a pretty unlucky thing to get,” said Rich Adams, who was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. “I never thought it was something I had.”
Adams, president of United Industries Inc. in Everett and a former Saugus resident, hopes to raise awareness among men that breast cancer should be on their radars as well. He is now in remission after completing “hard treatment” for the cancer in August 2011.
“Probably the first of this year I started to feel like myself again,” Adams said. “I still don’t have 100 percent of my energy, but I go to the gym every day now over a year out.”
Adams, 66, was at the gym when he first noticed tenderness when he lowered a barbell onto his chest while on the bench press.
“I tapped myself with the barbell and thought, ‘Oh that really hurt,’” Adams said. “I am never sick. And I never gave a second thought to something negative.”
But two weeks later, while stepping out of the shower, his wife noticed his chest was swollen, prompting him to go to the hospital. There, they found a tumor “the size of a peanut M&M” in his breast tissue. Shortly after, he began his treatment, which was identical to how doctors treat women with breast cancer.
“When I went to get a mammogram, it was all women there,” Adams said. “I suppose they expected me to leave with one of them. But when I was asked to come in, it was like, ‘Wow!’”…They don’t have a specific way to treat men. You are treated the same way as a woman.”
Adams underwent a mastectomy at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, went in for four sessions of chemotherapy and faced 30 sessions of radiation treatment. He currently lives in New Hampshire, near Lake Winnipesaukee, and would go to most of his doctor appointments in Stoneham, through Hallmark Health, after commuting to the Boston area for work.
This wasn’t Adams’ first brush with cancer. Ten years earlier, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer but said it was “easy” compared to battling breast cancer.
“I worked most of the time,” Adams said. “But [while being treated] it was really the first time I had to ask for help with things. I live on a lake and needed help with things like docking the boat, and I was in good shape when they found out about the cancer…It also does a job on your memory. For a while, I was beginning to wonder [if that would get better].”
Now, Adams’ only treatment is a pill he must take for about five years to help keep the cancer in remission. While acknowledging some self-consciousness about the side effects of radiation treatment, chemotherapy and the mastectomy — which includes losing hair and the removal of breast tissue — Adams feels they likely pale in comparison to the challenges of women being treated for breast cancer.
“I didn’t like losing hair, but I couldn’t imagine how it would be for a woman, how devastating it would be,” he said. “For a year, I didn’t like taking my shirt off at the gym. But I now take my shirt off at the pool and learn to live with it. It is what it is.”
One of his sisters, who used to work with him and now lives in New Mexico, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He hopes his experience with breast cancer can help her face the obstacles ahead. He also notes he has another sister, a daughter and three granddaughters who now get tested more frequently.
As for men, Adams reminds them to get tested too.
“Men should be aware of the fact it can happen to them,” he said. “If there are any indications, even if you don’t know of a family history, err on the side of being safe. Too often, men err on the side of not going to the doctor.”
Breast cancer awareness week
Recently, the state Legislature recognized the third week of October as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
State Rep. Lou Kafka, D-Stoughton, was a main proponent for the designation after a constituent contacted him and told him her husband was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I had no idea it was a possibility,” Kafka said. “It came as a shock and a surprise. After talking to doctors, I learned it’s not common but not completely uncommon. Men should be made aware of the possibility.”
State Rep. Paul Donato, D-Medford, as the acting speaker when the proposal was made, helped shepherd the legislation through the House of Representatives.
“The genesis was because we are completely aware of the major impact of breast cancer on women, but men, when it comes to breast cancer, have also been affected by it, even though not to the same degree,” Donato said.
State Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, also emphasized the importance of raising male breast cancer awareness.
“Breast cancer is a devastating disease that affects many women in our communities. But too often overlooked is the fact that it strikes men as well,” she said. “This designation of Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week is a good reminder that we all must know the risk factors and signs of breast cancer, discuss any symptoms with our doctors, and work together to support more research for better treatments and a cure.”
What doctors say
Dr. Joseph Pennacchio from the Hallmark Health System Hematology and Oncology Center in Stoneham said his center usually sees at least one case of male breast cancer each year.
“It’s not that uncommon,” he said. “Doctors and patients need to be aware that it could happen.”
Pennacchio said male breast cancer is easier to treat since there is less breast tissue to remove.
“In a man, we usually do a mastectomy, even if it is only 50/50 if there is cancer,” he said. “It doesn’t involve a big surgery. If there is cancer, we approach it the same way as with a woman.”
But Pennacchio noted male breast cancer is a potentially aggressive disease. The hope is that men are able to detect any lumps in their breasts sooner than a woman since there is less breast tissue. Despite this, the male breast cancer cases the center usually sees are at a more advanced stage than in female cases.
“We probably see this because women are more likely to go in for mammograms,” he said. “I don’t like to make a general statement, but there is some truth to men [putting going to the doctor] on the backburner.”
Pennacchio does not anticipate the treatment of male breast cancer to change much in coming years, at least in comparison with how women are treated. But he noted the evolution of more personalized treatment for patients in general.
“There are tests done to look at 20 to 30 pieces of information at the center,” he said. “It might guide us more specifically on what to recommend for one patient and spare them treatments that may have more side effects.”
Written by Jesse Kawa
Friday, 19 October 2012 08:07
Melrose Free Press
Oct. 11, 2012
By Andrew Pezelli
Whether you are a professional athlete in need of major knee reconstruction or a local competitor looking to ease that nagging back pain, Hallmark Health System’s new Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is the place for you.
The center has gone from relative obscurity, to one of the more highly regarded programs in the Greater Boston area.
In early March, Hallmark Health System decided to take a closer look at how their sports medicine program was being marketed.
The center, formerly called ‘Bone and Joint,’ had already been in existence for a while, but there was a feeling that there was a misconception over the kinds of services they offered.
An extensive market analysis was conducted with a patient care committee as well as local community members, which asked what they associated the title “Bone and Joint” with. The results showed overwhelmingly that no one associated Hallmark Health Systems’ program center with Sports Medicine.
“We wanted to rebrand ourselves,” said Anthony Alley, the Patient Care Director for the new center. “We wanted to reflect the service line that we…the title ‘Bone and Joint’ didn’t capture the full scope of our services.”
One of the changes that came immediately from this rebranding effort was the hiring of a Patient Care Director; Anthony Alley.
The patient care director is like a guide. Navigating patients from the first time they come in to the office all the way through surgery and rehab.
“If they ever have any questions they can call me,” said Alley. “I think it lessens the patients’ and their families’ anxiety, knowing they have someone they can come to for anything.”
The center also offers a program called ‘Joint Camp’ for people who are scheduled to have an orthopedic procedure.
Patients and families are part of a one-hour class that covers everything from the preparation to surgery, expectations while in the hospital, requirements for rehab, and insurance. Everyone gets to be together and go through the experience at once.
Creating these groups has been met with much appreciation since creates a sense of community and gives the patients and families a support group.
“It’s what sets us apart,” said Alley, “giving personal care to the patients and families.”
The center offers a number of different services, offering joint replacement for hip, knee, and shoulders along with custom joint replacements. Hand surgical procedures to fix fractures, address carpal tunnel issues, repair nerves, and treat arthritis. Surgical and non-surgical treatments of arthritis, flat foot problems and tendon injuries. As well as general orthopedic treatments for broken bones, tendon ruptures, back pain, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
And they aren’t stopping there either. The center continues to bring in specialists for hand, foot, and upper extremity injuries.
They also have brought a surgeon on board who practices in customized total and partial knee replacement; the only surgeon north of Boston providing that service.
The center also provides hip arthroscopy for patients right at the center so that they do not need to go to an outside hospital in Boston.
“Patients in the community can come here,” Alley said. “There’s no need to go somewhere else.”
One thing that many athletes will appreciate about the centers services is their speed and minimally invasive procedures.
“Ninety-Nine percent of our patients go home the same day after orthoscopic procedures,” said Alley. “We make to small incisions which lessen scaring and healing time, which is what the athletes want. They want to come in, have the procedure done, and return to their sport.”
The center’s biggest impact on the local community has been through its partnership with the Boston Bruins.
As part of the partnership, Hallmark received a $10,000 grant, which was used to start up a concussion program.
With concussion awareness becoming a bigger issue from the professional sports level all the way down to peewee leagues, having a resource center for coaches, players, and parents is invaluable.
The center provides screening for high school students, as well as providing resources to teach parents and coaches to know the signs and symptoms of concussions, which can go unnoticed without proper training.
The money from the grant was also used to purchase the ImPACT program (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), which is considered the most widely used computer-based testing program in the world for concussions.
“We’ve been able to train thousands of local families,” said Alley. “It’s probably been one of the most impactful benefits of our partnership with the Boston Bruins.”
Hallmark Health Systems sports medicine program has gone from obscurity, to their new Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine being one of the premier care providers in the area.
Its personal based care and state of the art technology set it apart from the rest, and makes it a great choice for professional athletes, as well as supporting the local community.
Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2012 08:10
Written by Jesse Kawa
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 14:39
Melrose Free Press
Oct. 2, 2012
By Jessica Sacco
Hallmark Health is changing the face of mammograms. In an effort to reduce the fear women have about their first mammogram, Medford’s Main Street Medical Center recently transformed into a spa, offering hand and chair massages, refreshments and hors d’oeuvres for “Meet. Mingle. Mammogram.”
The event is in its second year and is part of a $40,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Massachusetts Affiliate awarded to Hallmark Health this year.
“Breast health is really overall health,” said Judy Sadacca, outreach manager for imaging and endovascular services. “It’s really not about just having a mammogram. It’s about how to take care of yourself.”
Hallmark hopes to encourage women who have never had a mammogram to come in for the procedure by offering them a relaxing atmosphere before and after the process.
Each “Meet. Mingle. Mammogram.” event is designed to target a specific ethnicity. On Sept. 27, a variety of women gathered at the medical center for a night directed at the Latina population.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., women dined on a variety of empanadas, munched on vegetable sticks with dip and treated themselves to an assortment of cookies and chocolate.
Hand and chair massages were stationed throughout the room for guests to experience before and after their mammogram, which many women eagerly indulged in.
The ladies present were invited to talk with the breast health educator, Linda Leis, to learn about self-breast exams, diet, nutrition and were even offered a set of healthy recipes.
At the end of the night, all the women walked away with a free swag bag, full of information about breast health, a first aid kit, emery boards and hand cream, chocolate and more.
Women tell all
The 20 ladies who attended last Wednesday evening’s mammogram event seemed at ease as they sat and talked with friends and family. In fact, Sadacca said many stayed to socialize and be pampered well into the evening.
“They don’t leave after they have a mammogram,” she said. “They sit around and they chat. They want to interact with other women. So it really is a girl’s night out for them. “
Best friends since kindergarten, Kim Doherty and Rose Bamford, both Malden residents, decided come to the medical center for their first mammogram.
“We just turned 40 so we’re getting mammograms together,” said Doherty. “It’s going to be our birthday ritual.”
Both Bamford and Doherty agreed the procedure was not what they had originally expected.
“It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” said Doherty. “I thought they would squish it until milk came out.”
Bamford added it was good to have someone to go with for the initial mammogram, as she had more fear in her mind about the procedure, than it actually happening.
“The hardest part was holding my breath,” she joked. “I was like ‘I have to breathe!’”
Chelsea resident Windy Rodriguez came after hearing someone she knew was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She just came out of chemotherapy,” she said. “It’s a scary thought.”
After completing her first mammogram, Rodriguez was confident she would return annually.
“I will come back every year and do it,” she said. “Everything was so nice, they make you feel really comfortable.”
Sisters and Medford residents Joan Banks and Luzelbia Rodriguez also spent the evening at the health center, munching on appetizers, receiving massages and having their mammograms.
This is Banks’ second time coming to “Meet. Mingle. Mammogram.” and as a woman who’s had several mammograms throughout the years, she said the procedure is something you get used to after a few times.
“It helps you know that if anything is wrong, they can catch it early enough,” she added “You want to know early and not sit there and have something that isn’t curable.”
Rodriguez, like many of the other women at the center, expected the procedure to be painful, but with encouragement from her sister, decided to receive her first mammogram.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” she said. “I have four kids.”
Behind the procedure
Women are recommended to get baseline mammogram at 35 years old, and then annually once they’ve reached 40. Those with immediate family history (mother, sister) should have a mammogram 10 year’s before the relative’s diagnosis.
During a mammogram, a mammographer completes four images, two for each breast (one from the top and one from the side).
One at a time, a woman’s breast is compressed in an x-ray machine for eight to 10 seconds.
The process, mammographer Audrey Murphy said, is quick and not as uncomfortable in years pass, due to the digital machine, which almost instantly displays the results.
“I would say, 95 percent of women end up leaving and saying, ‘Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,’” she said. “It’s well worth having. You can check it off your list and move on.”
Every participant of a “Meet. Mingle. Mammogram.” event will receive either a letter stating no follow up is needed or a call for a return visit, after the x-rays are examined by a radiologist.
Yearly mammograms are important, Murphy added, because it allows doctors to address any changes that may have arisen. However, she said women’s breasts are altering all the time, and the differences are not necessarily problematic.
“We are looking for changes,” Murphy explained. “For something that may be abnormal. Not every change is a bad thing, but every change warrants an investigation.”
Murphy stressed annual mammograms increase the possibility of catching cancer before it becomes unmanageable.
“You can’t bury your head in the sand,” she said. “You need to come in and have your mammogram so if there is something wrong, we can increase your odds of survival.”
Also, Murphy said, mammograms don’t pick up 10 percent of breast cancers, meaning women need to be proactive about noticing changes in their breasts.
“Mammograms are wonderful, they’re saving lives,” she said. “But they’re not the end all. You need to do breast exams yourself, you need to see your doctor. You have to be aggressive as a patient to make sure you get some of those things done.”
Hallmark Health System will hold two Meet Mingle Mammogram events in the coming months in Medford at 101 Main St. on the following dates: Nov. 7 for Haitian women and Jan. 23 for Asian women. Others are welcome to attend, however. Registration is required by calling 800-540-9191.