New program at Augusta Health working to prevent breast cancer in high-risk patients

New program at Augusta Health working to prevent breast cancer in high-risk patients
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Source: Whitney Breaux)

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — Augusta Health has a new program that is helping people who are considered high risk prevent the development of breast cancer.

Using their community genetic screening program, Augusta Health is able to identify those at high risk for breast cancer. More than 1,100 people in the community have been screened through the program and about 400 were considered high risk. Additional patients were identified through other programs within the hospital.

Some factors of high-risk patients include certain genes, bone density and age of menopause.

Donna Markey is a nurse practitioner and she played a big part in developing the program. She says the program is important because it was created out of a necessity in the community.

“Traditionally if there is a high-risk individual, they get sent to a specialist, and in this case we are trying to bring our specialist to them, to the patients, our people in our community so they don’t have to travel somewhere else for this support,” Markey explained.

Program leaders work with patients to help control factors that make them high risk. For example, those participating will have ample time to chat with experts on how they can maintain physical and mental health to reduce risk.

Markey said the program is about controlling the controllable factors of the patient’s health.

“We are not in control of our genetics. We’re not in control of if mom had breast cancer or not, but we are in control of what we eat. We are not in control of how much exercise we get, whether we drink alcohol or not whether we smoke or not. All of those things are risk factors definitely for breast cancer and oftentimes for other cancers,” Markey explained.

“It’s a process of education and then support and providing the resources to help people understand those risks and learn how to manage them.”

For more information on the program, click here.

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