Health Cover Stories

Focused Care: SSM Health

In the United States, 13% of women will develop breast cancer at some point. It’s the second most common cancer among women, and the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 280,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2021 alone. It’s crucial that women of all ages are aware of their breast health, and early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. To help ensure every patient has the best possible outcome, SSM Health offers comprehensive and compassionate care at its breast health centers, which provide screening through surgery.

“Women need to know that annual screening saves the most lives from breast cancer death,” says Dr. Kate Appleton, a SSM health breast radiologist. “You shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to get a mammogram because the benefits are substantial.” It’s recommended that women start receiving an annual mammogram at age 40, and she notes that it’s also important that people know their personal breast cancer risk. “Get an assessment before you turn 30,” she explains. “Individuals with elevated risk benefit from supplemental screening. A mammogram alone often is not enough, and additional testing with breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be appropriate. Knowing your risk helps ensure that you’re getting the right test at the right time.”

If women have questions, SSM Health’s breast health program is dedicated to helping them navigate the screening process. Appleton notes that all SSM Health breast centers provide comprehensive screening and diagnostic imaging, including breast exams, digital and 3D mammograms, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and stereotactic biopsy. The imaging specialists are all experts in breast health who have received additional training in the field. “We’re not doing general radiology; we’re 100% focused on breast imaging,” she says. “We have a passion for what we do. Thanks to our experience and expertise, our patients can be reassured that they will receive the compassionate care they need.”

SSM Health radiologists work closely with breast surgeons, creating another level of convenience for patients. If someone requires a biopsy or other surgery following a screening, an expert is on-hand in the same center to consult and help schedule the necessary follow-up appointments. “Having more services located in one space means we can offer seamless care from beginning to end,” Appleton says. “With a dedicated breast center, we can take forward-thinking, collaborative care to the next level.” While SSM Health breast centers are focused on imaging and surgery, providers have the necessary resources to help patients access additional care they may require, such as chemotherapy or radiation.

There is no question that breast health and the risk of cancer is a daunting prospect. Appleton says the team at SSM Health is dedicated to providing people every possible advantage in their care, including peace of mind. “As a whole, we are fully committed to taking care of the total patient and their family,” she notes. “When patients visit one of our breast care centers, from the moment they check in at the front desk until the end of their appointment, everyone is committed to offering them an excellent experience backed up by clinical expertise.

SSM Health offers a comprehensive approach for all your breast health needs, from screening and diagnosis to treatment and follow-up support. Pictured on the cover: Dr. Laura Billadello, Dr. Kristy Ratkowski, Dr. Cheryl Herman, Dr. Mary Lowdermilk, Dr. Kate Appleton. For more information, visit ssmhealth.com/breastcare.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of SSM Health

Pictured at top: SSM Health Breast Radiologist Team in St. Louis: Dr. Laura Billadello, Dr. Cheryl Herman, Dr. Kate Appleton, Dr. Mary Lowdermilk, Dr. Amanda Chu,  Dr. Kristy Ratkowski,  Dr. Paula George, Dr. Christine Geraghty
Photo courtesy of SSM Health

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