Stefani Yudasz stands in front of Parkview Regional Medical Center’s 3D mammogram. Photo by Jackie Gorski
Stefani Yudasz stands in front of Parkview Regional Medical Center’s 3D mammogram. Photo by Jackie Gorski
Parkview Regional Medical Center in Warsaw opened its Cancer Institute in June 2018.

One of the many types of cancer the Cancer Institute helps treat is breast cancer.

Stefani Yudasz, nurse practitioner who runs the high-risk clinic at the Cancer Institute, said there is a reason why breast health is important.

“We have a lot of women in our society and our population,” she said. “Knowing that, not just breast cancer, but other breast issues, we all have them, so eventually, at some point, some people have some sort of breast issue.”

Yudasz is originally from Warsaw and worked at a breast clinic in Columbus, Ohio, when she decided to come back. She explained why she thought it was important.

“I know Dr. (Linda) Han came from IU to Warsaw. She’s our lead breast surgeon. And she was growing this breast surgery practice and breast program with Parkview and the Parkview Cancer Institute and I really appreciated what she was doing with that program and wanted to be part of it,” she said.

While a stand-alone building, the Cancer Institute is part of the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus.

Patients who are considered high-risk are those who have some sort of gene mutation, family history or other risk factors, such as atypical cells from a biopsy.

“They can come to our clinic and we run various different risk models for them to help guide us into what their actual lifetime risk might be. And using those risk models, then we can tailor a surveillance regiment that’s personalized to that patient,” Yudasz said.

The clinic offers several options, including screenings such as mammograms, breast MRIs and ultrasounds, as well as chemo prevention and medications to help lower the risk of breast cancer, as well as focusing on the patient’s lifestyle, she said.

While the clinic does not actually treat patients at its Warsaw location, Yudasz said it does provide new cancer patients appointments and follow-ups. The Fort Wayne location is where treatments such as chemo, radiation and surgery are provided.

She does expect the Warsaw facility to get to that point.

“We’re trying to grow to Warsaw and South Whitley and all those locations,” she said. “I know Warsaw is at the top of the list for places to try to expand our infusion center and having a medical and oncology team come to Warsaw as well.”

However, she does not know of any plans to make that happen.

The patient’s care is all done through the Cancer Institute, so there’s no need for partnering with anyone else. The patient just goes to the Fort Wayne location.

On a day-to-day basis, the Warsaw location will do imaging, whether that be a mammogram or other imaging if the patient is having a breast issue, she said. The imaging radiologist will recommend a biopsy if there is something on the mammogram or ultrasound. If it comes back as cancer, the patient is immediately plugged into the nurse navigation crew within 48 hours to help the patient navigate their journey.

Yudasz said breast-conserving treatments are preferred. However, there are times when that cannot happen. At that time, there are options for patients, whether that’s certain bras or plastic surgery, which are covered by insurance.

The Cancer Institute is also a member of the MD Anderson Cancer Network, a program of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, which is one of the leading cancer organizations in the U.S.

“It just gives us more resources in experts in breast cancer and health,” said Yudasz. The network allows them to have access to all of MD Anderson’s providers and do peer-to-peer conferences with their teams when they have challenging cases, as well as opening the door to research projects the Cancer Institute might not normally be eligible for.

Yudasz said there are benefits to breast cancer awareness month, which is October.

“We always see an influx of patients in October and November after patients were exposed everywhere about breast cancer awareness month,” she said. There are numerous organizations that give speeches, do programs, etc. “We know that with increased awareness, we’re increasing screenings and hopefully catching breast cancers earlier, which is going to give our patients better outcomes.”

Yudasz said she thinks breast cancer is lucky compared to some other forms of the disease because it does have a month dedicated to awareness for it.

Sometimes having that reminder about breast cancer will get some people to go get their screening mammograms.

“Everyone has been touched by breast cancer in some way and that may be a good experience, it might be a bad experience. By increasing that awareness and by encouraging patients to detect things earlier, it’ll hopefully de-escalate that treatment and maybe they’ll have a better experience than what they’ve experienced through maybe a family member or friend or someone in the community,” she said.

However, breast cancer does not only affect women.

“We know women are more likely to get breast cancer than men,” she said, but she does see some men come in with breast cancer.

Breast cancer awareness month should focus on reminding women to get their screenings, she said, but it should also remind men they are susceptible to the disease as well.

"Breast cancer in men is a rare disease. Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. In 2019, about 2,670 men are expected to be diagnosed with the disease. For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 833," Yudasz said.

Fear and being busy are two big factor factors that lead to people not getting screened, she said.

That’s why she loves breast cancer awareness month, because it allows patients to know they are not alone.

Some things people need to look out for in regards to breast cancer are lumps, nipple discharge or inversion, skin changes and redness that isn’t responding to antibiotics, she said. While these things don’t necessarily mean the person has breast cancer, she said it’s definitely something that needs to be checked out.

Risk factors for breast cancer include being female, family history, genetic mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (made famous by Angelina Jolie), alcohol consumption and being at least 40, she said.

Yudasz said there are things to help lower the risk of breast cancer. Those things include having kids at a younger age and breast feeding. Reducing alcohol use to one glass of wine a day is another.

Yudasz also suggests talking with family members about medical history to be aware all diseases in the family.