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Saint Agnes using new weapons to fight breast cancer

Expanded facilities, free screenings and new treatment techniques

10/24/2014, 7 a.m.
When Tammy Owens Johnson received a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 41, the news would forever change her ...
Modern infusion areas in the Infusion Center at the Cancer Institute at Saint Agnes Hospital. The Infusion Center, where patients receive infusion therapies, such as chemotherapy is lined with windows overlooking a newly created Healing Garden. The Infusion Center and Healing Garden are just two of the many architectural features designed to make the newly expanded Cancer Institute a place of refuge and strength for those suffering from cancer, as well as for their families and loved ones. (Courtesy photo/St. Agnes Hospital)

This is the final story of a Four-Part Series about Saint Agnes Hospital’s efforts to fight breast cancer.

When Tammy Owens Johnson received a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 41, the news would forever change her life. What followed, was chemotherapy, radiation and surgical removal of both breasts and reconstructive surgery.

Through various efforts, which include a new Cancer Institute, Saint Agnes Hospital helps make the breast cancer journey an easier one to walk for breast cancer patients such as Owens Johnson, and their families.

“All of the support and the wonderful care I received at Saint Agnes reminded me that I just couldn’t give up,” said Owens Johnson who was diagnosed in 2011. “When you go through something like this, it changes your entire life. The care I received at Saint Agnes made my walk a little easier.”

Saint Agnes is home to a Cancer Institute, which moved into the Angelos Medical Pavilion, in 2013. The center is among the many efforts by the hospital to help fight breast cancer. The new space expanded the Cancer Institute by 40 percent bringing new clinical space including an expanded Infusion Center as well as a renovated Radiation Oncology area.

The Infusion Center is where patients receive infusion therapies, such as chemotherapy. According to Saint Agnes, the Institute seeks to provide patients with the greatest personal comfort as they receive their medical care.

The Infusion Center is lined with windows overlooking a newly created Healing Garden. A special ceremony was held to dedicate The Healing Garden to cancer survivors, their families and those who have passed on.

The Infusion Center and Healing Garden are just two of the many architectural features designed to make the newly expanded Cancer Institute a place of refuge and strength for those suffering from cancer, as well as for their families and loved ones.

Saint Agnes is also at the forefront of advanced treatment techniques, which includes being the first and only hospital in Maryland to use AccuBoost, a safer radiation treatment option that better targets the cancerous tissue and therefore minimizes radiation to healthy tissue in or near the breast and major organs such as the heart and lungs.

The hospital also began using Herceptin and Pertuzumab along with chemotherapy, when the drugs were first approved by the FDA, to treat women with metastatic disease and more recently for women who qualify for Neoadjuvant Therapy. Saint Agnes provides Neoadjuvant Therapy to select patients when appropriate, which deviates from the standard treatment path and actually provides chemotherapy before surgery. This method is used when the cancer is relatively large and can be shrunk prior to surgery, which also gives the patient the option of a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy.

The hospital also offers several preventative breast cancer programs including The Saint Agnes Hospital Breast Link Program. The program seeks to ensure that women have access to the tools and resources needed to make breast health a priority.

“The ultimate goal is to get women screened and treated early,” said Kirstan Cecil, director of marketing for Saint Agnes Hospital. “We also want people to know we also offer these wonderful facilities on campus.”

The Breast Link Program seeks to break down barriers and make it easy for women over the age of 40, who reside in the 21229, 21230 and 21223 zip codes of Baltimore City, regardless of their health insurance status, to be educated and screened.

The program aims to provide breast health information to more than 5,000 women in these communities and provides 300 mammograms at no cost to anyone who opts to participate fully in the program.

The process starts with a Breast Connector who helps to make an appointment. Once the appointment is scheduled, a physician conducts a clinical breast examination, a mammogram and the results, all in a single day at no cost to the patient. Complimentary transportation is also available if needed.

“This program is designed so that women who are uninsured or underinsured can get screenings and mammograms,” said Cecil. “We want to make sure those who don’t have access to these services, have access. Many women have come through Breast Link, and as a result, many of them have been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

For more information about the many breast cancer programs offered by Saint Agnes Hospital or their facilities, visit http://www.stagnes.org/