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Clara's Story

From Breast Matters magazine - Fall 2019

Clara

Clara is a busy 46-year-old mother of two. She’s also a breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed in 2012 with hormone receptor positive breast cancer, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy and, for the past seven years, has taken tamoxifen. She says symptoms of the medication, which blocks hormone receptors to prevent her hormone-triggered cancer from recurring, have been fairly mild and manageable. But Clara recognizes that, as she gets older, her medical history and the menopausal transition will put her at greater risk for other health issues, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

She’s not too worried about it, for good reason.

Clara plans to take advantage of a brand new program at Johns Hopkins dedicated to coordinating and providing women’s health care before, during, and after menopause. The program was launched with foundational support from Robin and Mark Rubenstein and the Bauer Foundation, bringing together a hand-picked multi-disciplinary team of medical experts from the Kimmel Cancer Center and throughout Johns Hopkins. “It’s a passion,” says the program’s co-director gynecologist Wen Shen of developing the women’s wellness program to deliver robust, coordinated care to women. 

This may be especially relevant to patients who have had breast cancer, says breast cancer expert Vered Stearns, Women’s Malignancies Program Director and the new women’s wellness program co-director.

“Women with breast cancer, regardless of age at diagnosis, are very likely to encounter symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and bone loss,” says Stearns.

While she has referred many of her breast cancer patients to Shen over the years, this new program provides patients access to more timely appointments and coordinated care with dedicated experts. 

Under Shen’s and Stearns’ leadership, the expanding multispecialty team includes experts in: gynecology and women’s health; wellness services for breast cancer patients, the care of survivors and women at risk; cardiovascular health; treatment of uterine and vaginal prolapse, incontinence and related conditions; mood and anxiety disorders; arthritis and other joint, ligament and muscle disorders; bone health and osteoporosis; treating women with more than one health issue; and combining conventional and integrative medicine.

Clara sees the benefits. “I’m glad these doctors recognize what I’ve been through. I know they’ll take my symptoms seriously and be proactive.” she says. As a physical therapist, Clara understands and values the concept of a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals. “It’s good to know that they’re talking to one another behind the scenes,” she says.

Although the public is beginning to become more aware of the need for a focus on women’s care in midlife, other programs currently available to this demographic are limited, Shen explains. “We are broadening the focus, including a wide range of specialists and getting to the core of how women can age healthy,” she says.

“We anticipate that our program can both serve as the primary clinic for some women, or provide a consult with a roadmap that can be carried out by the women’s own physicians,” Stearns says. 

To learn more about our new program for women’s wellness or to ask a question, email us at womenswellness@jhmi.edu.

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