A New Breast Center for Howard County General Hospital
Date: November 16, 2012
When the Johns Hopkins Department of Surgery was seeking the best place to extend the reach of its breast cancer surgery services, it looked at several hospitals in the region. The answer, it discovered, was in the Health System’s own back yard.
This past spring, Hopkins sent breast cancer surgery specialist Lisa Jacobs to expand services at the existing breast center located at Howard County General Hospital. The move has given patients one-stop care and treatments supported by the latest evidenced-based medicine.
Just as importantly, the enhanced breast center offers the opportunity for Hopkins to better collaborate with the community physicians who are the backbone of medical services delivered at the county’s only community hospital.
“Howard County General had also approached the Hopkins surgery department about a breast cancer specialist coming out there,” Jacobs explains. “In evaluating the hospital, I quickly knew that its goals fit our academic goals. Of course, it helped that the hospital was already a part of the Hopkins system.”
Located on the first floor of the Health Care and Surgery Center, the new center offers screening mammography as well as imaging, biopsy and diagnosis.
Diagnosed cases receive a thorough evaluation by the Tumor Board, a group that includes community and academic specialists who determine the best course of treatment for each patient. Among the participants are a private-practice medical oncology group, the academic radiation oncology group, private-practice surgeons, plastic surgeons who are mix of private practice only and private practice with faculty appointments, and pathologists.
The Tumor Board also serves as one avenue by which Jacobs is bringing the latest research into decision-making.
“In many ways, we’re limiting and actually reducing the amount of treatment traditionally carried out in the past,” Jacobs notes. “For example, based on some recent research studies, we’re doing fewer axillary surgeries, such as node resections, thus saving the lymph nodes and armpits and reducing permanent swelling of the arm. By doing less, over time, we’ve been able to reduce the cosmetic issues related to breast cancer care and also the time commitment for patients.”
Traditionally, about 150 breast cancer procedures have been performed annually at Howard County General, all by general surgeons. But until the new breast center opened, many patients seeking comprehensive care in one location were leaving the county to receive breast cancer-related services at other hospitals.
Jacobs is convinced that the private-practice physicians and Johns Hopkins share the same goals of giving breast cancer patients the most advanced care possible and eliminating the need for them to travel to different locations. “Emphasizing that together we’re improving the level of care,” she says, “has resonated well with local physicians and their patients.”