High Risk, Dense Breast, Program Now at El Camino Hospital

Doctors, public officials and the community gathered Monday to discuss advances in breast cancer health, research, and risk-assessment tools. Free mammograms are available.


More than 100 members of the community packed an information session about the importance of early detection and options for women with dense breasts at El Camino Hospital Oct. 29.

The hospital used the event to launch its high risk breast breast program, highlighting the dense breast education bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown recently.

Amy Colton, the Soquel woman whose experience inspired Sen. Simitian to champion the dense breast bill, shared her story of years of having clear mammograms until she was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Colton is a  registered nurse in Watsonville, Van Zuiden said. Because of Colton's story and Simitian's decision to write and carry the legislation, the new law requires that following a mammogram, women with dense breast tissue be informed that having such tissue can obscure abnormalities on a mammogram, such as cancer, so they may discuss it with their doctors and weigh options for additional screenings.

"This is the most passionate group that I've seen," said Michele Van Zuiden, executive director of El Camino Hospital's Women’s Hospital, alluding to the audience exploring the topics of both dense breast tissue and being in a high-risk group, with mothers, aunts, siblings who have had breast cancer.

"We had 50 questions handed to our moderator that we couldn't get to," Van Zuiden said. "It was supposed to be over at 8 and we had people who stayed there until 9:15."

Marcia Stein, another patient, told her story as high-risk breast cancer candidate. She related it back to the hospital's high-risk breast program and how the hospital's risk assessment tools would have been helpful when she was going through that process, Van Zuiden said. 

Doctors discussed breast health and cancer detection and prevention, including new assessment technology. El Camino Hospital recently acquired advanced risk assessment tools and diagnostic equipment, which provide women even more information  breast health. Doctors on the panelists stayed to answer questions after the program ended, Van Zuiden said.

Event participants over 40 were also encouraged to make the Pinky Promise Pledge to commit to getting an annual mammogram—and be entered to win a $398 Coach Madison Leather Lindsey Satchel, as an enticement. 

The hospital has funds for a free mammography program for women who don't have insurance, or those whose deductibles are may be high. Call 800-216-5556 to register. It is made possible by two charitable groups. 

The Women's Hospital holds free or low-cost women's health events available to anyone, not just those who live in the district. The prosaically named Women's Health Forum held at El Camino Hospital in the spring was given the jaunty moniker, "Girls Night Out" when it was replicated at El Camino's Los Gatos facility last week, Van Zuiden said. "We hope that the education will turn into action and they will redouble their efforts to know their risk, get screened, start treatment early and ultimately, survive," Van Zuiden sad


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