For women or men who are anxiously wondering if the lump they found is breast cancer, the breast health clinic at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital can offer a quick diagnosis, generally within three weeks.
"It's much better for patients. As soon as you find a lump, you think it's cancer, and that's very anxietyproducing. Waiting to get that call is nerve-wracking," said Geralyn Hogan, the clinic's registered nurse co-ordinator.
Based on the EUSOMA format developed by the European Society of Mastology, the clinic replaces the old approach in which a diagnosis could take several months.
"Previously it was very much a multi-step process. A woman would find a lump, go to her doctor, who'd refer her to a mammogram. Then the results would go back to the doctor, and then he might order an ultrasound or a biopsy, and those results would go back to the doctor.
"Then he would refer the patient to a surgeon for a biopsy. It was a real back and forth process," said Hogan.
Now, if a doctor finds a lump, a patient is referred straight to the clinic where the professional staff take over.
A person can also refer themselves if they find a lump, have breast pain or other worrying breast symptoms.
For the most part, the worry is unnecessary.
About 80 per cent of patients who go to the clinic with lumps or breast pain have a benign or non-cancerous breast ailment.
About 20 per cent of clinic patients receive a biopsy, where a tissue sample is taken.
Overall, around five per cent of patients actually have a cancer, said Hogan.
When that happens, the patient is immediately paired up with a nurse navigator at the adjacent Abbotsford B.C. Cancer Agency who guides and supports the patient through the treatment process.
There are better outcomes for the women with cancer due to earlier diagnosis and treatment response, Hogan said.
She said 82 per cent of the clinic's patients get their diagnosis within three weeks.
"One woman who was selfreferred 13 days ago got her diagnosis today [it was positive for cancer] and already has an operation date," she said.
Clinic patients receive a breast exam at the clinic and may be sent up the hall for a mammogram or ultrasound, and depending on those results, the woman may have a biopsy. Those results are generally back in two weeks.
Since it opened on May 31, 2011, the clinic has seen 3,395 clients, more than double what the pilot program had been expecting to see in its first year.
That includes about 25 men, said Hogan, and one of those was diagnosed with cancer.
Patients aged 13 to 104 have been at the clinic, although most are women in their 40s to 50s.
Not all lumps, bumps or sore spots are cancer. They may be due to cysts or fibrocystic disease.
About 60 per cent of women have significant breast pain at some point in their lives, which can be due to fluctuating hormones levels, said Hogan.
"The nurses will do a lot of teaching on that. It's about educating the women and offering a solution. Sometimes a professionally fitted bra can alleviate problems," she said.
Abbotsford Breast Health Clinic hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nurses also answer calls and e-mails Monday to Friday.
The clinic is on the second floor of the Sumas Wing at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital, 32900 McCallum Rd., Abbotsford.
Contact the clinic at 604-851-4806 or e-mail ARHBreastHealth@fraserhealth.ca or visit bit.ly/Qp4Q5f.