Holistic Approach to Breast Care

Hoag is a pioneer in early-stage breast cancer diagnostics, state-of-the-art treatment technologies and breast conservation surgery, but what if breast cancer could be prevented before the disease ever takes hold and women were supported beyond diagnosis and treatment and into a stage of wellness?

With a holistic view of breast health, Hoag Women’s Health Institute and the donors who support it are committed to raising awareness of breast cancer risk and survivorship services available.

“All women are at risk of developing breast cancer, but a number of factors increase that risk, including age and race, family history, previous biopsies, obstetric and menstrual history and use of hormone replacement therapy,” said director of integrative breast oncology Sadia Khan, D.O.

The Hoag Early Risk Assessment (HERA) Program examines many factors to help women between the ages of 35 and 55 determine and reduce their risk. For women under 35 and over 55, Hoag has additional resources and services such as genetic testing and counseling to help assess cancer risk.

“HERA provides women with the results of their screening mammogram and their 10-year risk of developing breast cancer. If a woman has a normal mammogram but an elevated risk, the program provides free individualized consultation with high-risk nurse practitioner. This empowers women to take an active role in prevention,” said Heather Macdonald, M.D., medical director of the High Risk Breast & Ovarian Cancer Prevention Program at Hoag.

Through these consultations, women can learn what they can do to reduce their lifetime risk of the disease. While breast cancer risk is often associated with genetics, 90 percent of breast cancer cases are caused by risk factors within a woman’s control, such as body mass index, smoking and exercise.

Under the guidance of counselors and professionals, women can learn how lifestyle modifications can lower cancer risk. Smoking cessation, exercise and dietary changes, for example, can lower lifetime cancer risk significantly.

“We’ve found that many women have no idea that they are at heightened risk,” Dr. Macdonald said. “The expanded HERA program gives women the insight and the tools they need to take control of their health.”

Even women whose genes put them at higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer are able to take measures to mitigate their risk. For these women, the HERA program’s genetic counselor can help determine whether genetic testing is appropriate. When determining hereditary cancer risk, genetic counseling as well as testing can be an important combination.

Screening is also an important tool. While mammograms remain the gold standard for breast cancer early detection, for women with dense breast tissue and for women whose family history and genes put them at higher risk of developing breast cancer, tomosynthesis (or 3D mammography), MRI and ultrasound can be useful complements. Hoag offers all these modalities to try to identify cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

The only breast center in Orange County to be designated as a Certified Quality Breast Center of Excellence™ by the National Consortium of Breast Centers, Hoag offers the latest in treatment modalities, as well.

Most importantly, for women requiring breast cancer treatment, Hoag’s holistic view extends beyond treatment and helps women look toward survivorship and wellness. The Hoag Healing Breast Survivors Program offers educational programming, special events and access to Hoag for Her Center for Wellness to empower and support breast cancer survivors with wellness services and integrative therapies.

“Hoag cares for the whole patient, providing insight on mental wellness, sexual health and risk reducing lifestyle changes,” Dr. Khan said. “Our focus goes beyond survivorship, to ‘thrivorship,’ where we see women living healthy, whole lives well past their cancer.”