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September 30, 2009 > Keep Abreast of Cancer Services at "Think Pink" Health Fair

Keep Abreast of Cancer Services at "Think Pink" Health Fair

Washington Women's Center Event Offers an Evening of Education, Lectures and Fun

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Washington Women's Center is hosting "Think Pink: Breast Health and Cancer Awareness." During the free event, Washington Hospital medical staff and clinicians will present lectures on topics such as breast health, MRI screening, genetic testing for breast cancer and provide an overview of the Washington Women's Center Breast Health Program.

Several local nonprofits that provide support to breast cancer patients will join the Women's Center staff to answer questions and provide information on various services and resources. A special fashion show sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Discovery Shop will conclude the evening. Participants are invited to come out and take part in lectures and prize drawings while learning more about breast health.

The event will take place on Thursday, October 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. under the white tent in the Washington West parking lot, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont. Call (800) 963-7070 to register.

Washington Women's Center
"We were one of the first hospitals in the area to develop a center dedicated to the care of women," says Dr. William Dugoni, medical director of Washington Women's Center. "We're extremely proud of the first-class, university-level care it offers the community. We expect to become the first nationally accredited breast center in Northern California," he continues.

"What is unique about our center is that it's not this cold, sterile hospital environment. We try to alleviate anxiety by providing a setting that is open and warm, so women are more willing to come in...and come back."

They've done an admirable job. While waiting for a mammogram, women can listen to soft music while sipping a cup of tea in a Queen Anne chair. They can appreciate the patterned teal carpet, curved glass wall with flowing-water effects, and decorating touches that could be from Sunset magazine.

Between the nice robe and ability to schedule a massage, they might think they inadvertently wandered into a spa. Make no mistake, though. The Washington Women's Center is a powerful ally in the fight against breast cancer.

"Mammography is the only screening test proven to increase survival. In women over 50, finding breast cancer early reduces the risk of dying from the disease by 35 percent," according to Dr. Mimi Lin, radiologist and medical director of mammography. Washington Hospital was one of the first to begin using digital mammography.

Most medical organizations recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Women at high risk for breast cancer should consult their physician about starting earlier and using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

When follow up is needed, the Women's Center specializes in minimally invasive diagnostic tools. They include additional digital mammography images, ultrasound, MRIs and needle biopsies done with local anesthesia, Dr. Lin explains.

Every attempt is made to perform all non-invasive tests the same day to minimize delay, anxiety and inconvenience.

If malignancy is confirmed, treatment typically involves some combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, anti-estrogen therapy and breast reconstruction.

Two out of three Washington Hospital patients have breast conservation surgery (lumpectomies) rather than mastectomies. That's 10 percent higher than the national average.

If it is necessary to remove the breast, reconstruction is covered by insurance and can be done during the initial surgery. "We are fortunate to have a plastic surgeon dedicated to breast reconstruction," Dr. Dugoni says. "The results are spectacular."

An invaluable aspect of the Women's Center is the range of free support available.

"The Navigator System assigns volunteers - most of them breast cancer survivors - to newly diagnosed patients," Dr. Dugoni explains. "They take people through the whole process and support system."

Classes and publications explain the disease, treatment options, side effects, recovery, nutrition, follow-up care, and more.

At twice-monthly Breast Care Conferences, a patient can discuss her specific case with specialists such as radiologists, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiation oncologists and plastic surgeons.

The American Cancer Society provides wigs, scarves, caps and cosmetics to women in chemotherapy, while Bras for Body and Soul caters to women who have had breast surgery.

Follow up
Unfortunately, the danger doesn't end when a tumor is removed. "The highest chance for cancer to come back is in the first three to five years," explains Washington Hospital oncologist Vandana B. Sharma.

In 70-80 percent of cases, patients need hormonal (anti-estrogen) therapy for at least five years. Drugs such as tamoxifen suppress estrogen and its effects. "It's as critical to preventing the cancer from coming back as surgery, chemo and radiation," she stresses.

There's also an ongoing need for "survivor surveillance."

"She'll need to come in for follow-up visits every three months for the first three years, then every six months for two more years," Dr. Sharma says.

"After that she needs a physical exam and mammogram once a year - maybe an MRI if she's at high risk. She'll need to follow up for the rest of her life."

Think Pink Ribbon Contest
Show your support for breast cancer awareness and participate in the Think Pink Ribbon Contest. Pink ribbons are available to pick up at the Washington Women's Center (2500 Mowry Avenue) or Washington Community Health Resource Library.

Decorate the ribbon and be eligible for a gift. Entries will be displayed the night of the event. Drop off decorated ribbons at the Washington Community Health Resource Library or at the Washington Women's Center or you can send to Washington Hospital, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont CA, 94538, Attn: Ruth Traylor.

Think Pink Health Fair
When: Thursday, October 15
Time: 5 to 8 p.m.
Location: 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West - White Tent in Parking Lot)
Light refreshments will be served.
Cost: Free!

To learn more about the programs and services available through the Washington Women's Center, visit

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