WINDBER, Pa. – Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center opened in February 2002 as a one-stop facility for breast cancer care in a healing environment.
As part of what is now Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber, the center continues to focus on the patient and live up to its original slogan, “Designed by women, for women,” with the goal of making screenings and treatments as convenient and supportive as possible.
“I try to imagine how I’d feel or how my mom would feel,” mammography technologist Renee Handwork said. “We try to create a relaxing environment with music and aromas – things to make it less painful and distractions to take your mind off what you are thinking.”
Erin Goins is the executive director of the center, as well as director of women’s health services for the hospital. She said the mission and commitment to a healing environment have not changed.
She credits the center’s long-time employees with carrying on that tradition.
“These patients are comfortable here,” she said at the breast care center, located at the top of Seventh Street in Windber. “They come here and see familiar faces. Some ask for specific mammography technicians because they are familiar with them. It helps them feel comfortable in an unfamiliar situation.”
Care and research
The Joyce Murtha Center offers a lounge area with coffee and a library, blanket warmers, and special mammography gowns with flaps in the front so that the woman is less exposed during the test.
A few years ago, the physicians’ offices and exam rooms were moved upstairs for more privacy, away from the busy imaging areas.
Two breast surgeons, Drs. Deborah Sims and Trudi Brown can often provide same-day biopsies for patients who are called back after a suspicious mammogram.
There is also low-dose 3D mammography, breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, minimally invasive biopsies, genetic counseling, and bone densitometry.
The center continues to collaborate with Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine, providing an opportunity for patients to register and donate their cancer tissue for research by the Clinical Breast Care Project of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“Last year celebrated the 10,000th patient enrolled in CBCP,” Goins said.
Although most of those participants were enrolled through Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other military hospitals, the Joyce Murtha Center has stepped up efforts to enroll local breast cancer patients.
“We have increased staff on the research side for the Clinical Breast Cancer Project,” Goins said.
Two additional employees doubled the center’s staff coordinating research patients for Chan Soon-Shiong Institute.
“They are staying pretty busy,” Goins said.
Enrollment information has been added for breast cancer patients using the online patient portal connection and an informational pamphlet is in the works.
For those with no insurance, the center developed its Pink Ribbon Fund with donations from the Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out Foundation and other community donors. The fund covers screening and diagnostic services, as well as genetic testing.
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