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Breast Cancer


Back to Cancer Care

One in eight women will face breast cancer in her lifetime. However, breast cancer screenings can help improve the chances that breast cancer will be detected early and treated successfully.

Breast self-exams
We encourage you to perform a breast self-exam once a month at the same time each month. Breast self-exams help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, so you will be able to detect changes.

Clinical breast exams
A clinical breast exam is a screening performed by a healthcare professional as part of your yearly well-woman visit. During the clinical exam, your provider carefully checks your breasts for changes or abnormalities.

Freeman is the first and only in region to invest in GE Healthcare’s Senographe Pristina™ Dueta, a 3-D mammography system that enables women to determine the pressure applied for compression, improving women’s experience and delivering better images. This self-compression tool helps give women a sense of control by enabling them to manually adjust the degree of breast compression. Studies have shown patients will apply an extra 30% of pressure when engaged in the acquisition of their mammograms.

Learn More

Schedule your mammogram
We offer screening mammography at convenient locations in both Joplin and Neosho. To schedule an appointment, call 417.347.7777.


Diagnosing Breast Cancer

    Wes & Jan Houser Women's Pavilion is designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR).

    When you see the gold seals of accreditation, you can rest assured that the facility will meet the highest level of patient safety standards and image quality. Why? Because it means that the facility and its personnel have gone through a comprehensive review to earn accreditation status by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Among patients and physicians alike, ACR accreditation is recognized as the gold standard in medical imaging.

    By awarding facilities the status of Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, the ACR recognizes breast imaging centers that have earned accreditation in mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy and breast ultrasound (including ultrasound-guided breast biopsy).

    Peer-review evaluations, conducted in each breast imaging modality by board-certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field, have determined that Wes & Jan Houser Women's Pavilion has achieved high practice standards in image quality, personnel qualifications, facility equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs.

    The ACR is a nation professional organization serving more than 36,000 diagnostic/interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of medical imaging and radiation oncology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services. 


    Early detection of breast cancer greatly increases survival rates. That’s why the American College of Radiology recommends a mammogram every year for women ages 40 and older.

    We can help if you do not have a physician referral for a mammogram. To schedule an appointment with Wes & Jan Houser Women’s Pavilion, call 417.347.7777

    Breast Ultrasound

    Breast ultrasound is a procedure used for further evaluation of an evident breast abnormality or a density-specific lump seen through mammography. It is an imaging technique using high frequency sound waves to scan the breast. Ultrasound can locate and measure abnormal changes or lesions in the breast and determine if a breast lump is solid (tumor) or filled with liquid (cyst). Ultrasound of the breast is not a replacement of mammography but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.

    Breast MRI

    Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast is a noninvasive diagnostic tool used to detect breast cancer and other abnormalities in the breast.

    Breast MRI captures multiple images of the breast using a dedicated computer that generates detailed images. The study involves obtaining pictures of the breast before and after a contrast agent is administered in an effort to display not only the size and shape of a lesion, but how it enhances, which can distinguish benign and malignant lesions.

    The radiologist will review the MRI and send a report to the referring physician. Breast MRI is usually performed when a physician needs more information than a mammogram, ultrasound or clinical breast exam can provide. MRI of the breast is not a replacement of mammography or ultrasound, but rather a supplemental tool for detecting and staging breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.

    Learn about your biopsy

    Wes & Jan Houser Women's Pavilion offers the Mammotome® Breast Biopsy System, a minimally invasive system that provides safe and accurate biopsies. The entire procedure is performed through a small probe that is inserted into a single incision about the size of a match head, which minimalizes pain, scarring and recovery time. Here's what you or someone you care about can expect when undergoing a breast biopsy using the Mammotome system.


    1. Patient positioning depends on the imaging method used. If the procedure uses ultrasound imaging, a doctor will obtain images of the breast tissue while the patient lies on her back. In stereotactic procedures, patients lie facedown on a special table. The woman's breast protrudes through a hole in the table's surface, where it is lightly compressed and immobilized while a computer produces detailed images of the abnormality.

    2. The patient is given a mild sedative and an analgesic (such as Tylenol®) to reduce anxiety and discomfort.

    The Procedure

    3. Once the area to be biopsied has been located and mapped, the Mammotome probe is inserted through a small one-fourth-inch incision in the breast.

    4. When the probe is positioned at the area of concern, it gently vacuums, cuts and removes tissue samples for examination. The samples pass through the hollow chamber of the probe into a collection chamber. Because the Mammotome probe is directional, we can collect multiple specimens without having to remove and reinsert the device.


    5. To continue to monitor your breast health following a breast biopsy using the Mammotome system, the doctor may place a small stainless steel MicroMark® II Tissue Marker to identify the biopsy site. While this tiny marker is undetectable to the patient, it enables a physician to keep track of an abnormality in future mammograms.

    6. The Mammotome probe is removed after the samples have been collected, and the single incision is closed with a small adhesive bandage.

    Mammotome facts

    • More than 750,000 women have had successful breast biopsies using the Mammotome procedure since 1996.
    • The Mammotome Breast Biopsy System is offered in approximately 1,600 hospitals, breast centers and physician offices.
    • Breast biopsies using the Mammotome system are performed in an outpatient setting or doctor's office under local anesthesia.
    • Tissue samples collected using the Mammotome system are just as reliable as open surgical biopsies and three times more accurate than core needle biopsies in the diagnosis of conditions associated with early breast cancer.
    • The Mammotome system is suitable for sampling breast abnormalities including microcalcifications, spiculated masses, asymmetric densities, multifocal disease and diffuse tissue.
    • Approximately 95 to 99 percent of all health insurance plans cover breast biopsies using the Mammotome system.
    • Patients can return to normal daily activity immediately following a breast biopsy using the Mammotome system.

    This Mammotome information is provided courtesy of Ethicon Endo-Surgery.

    Preventing Breast Cancer

    Although you cannot prevent cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk: 

    • Stay physically active
    • Eat fruits and vegetables
    • Don’t smoke
    • Limit alcohol consumption
    • Maintain a healthy weight

    Early detection is the best protection

    The gold standard for breast cancer screening is mammography. The American Cancer Society recommends women over age 40 have a mammogram every year. If you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer, then you should start screening mammograms 10 years prior to the age she was diagnosed (but not before age 25).


    Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

    Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. Not all risk factors are created equal, and having a risk factor does not mean that you will get breast cancer. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. 

    • Sex. Women are far more likely to get breast cancer than men, although men can get breast cancer, as well.
    • Age. The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
    • Early menstrual period. Women who start their periods before age 12 are exposed to hormones longer, raising the risk for breast cancer by a small amount.
    • Late or no pregnancy. Having the first pregnancy after age 30 and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
    • Starting menopause after age 55. Like starting one’s period early, being exposed to estrogen hormones for a longer time later in life also raises the risk of breast cancer.
    • Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
    • Being overweight after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
    • Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
    • Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills). Certain forms of oral contraceptive pills have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
    • Personal history of breast cancer. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
    • Personal history of certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
    • Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
    • Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
    • Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

    Symptoms of Breast Cancer

    Because breast cancer can present in many ways, and every woman's breasts are different, patients should look for anything new or changing in the breast. Common signs and symptoms are:

    • Mass or lump felt in the breast
    • Change in the color or texture of the skin on the breast
    • Dimpling anywhere on the breast
    • Changes in the nipple, for example, becoming inverted or developing a red scaly patches on the nipple or areola
    • Discharge from the nipple when not breast feeding


    What should I do if I find a lump?

    Most often, it is not breast cancer, but if you notice anything new or changing in your breast, let your healthcare provider know as soon as possible. To schedule a mammogram, call 417.347.7777.

    Treating Breast Cancer

      If surgery is needed, Freeman Health System offers state-of-the-art breast surgery by board-certified surgeons. Surgery options include breast conservation or lumpectomy, mastectomy with or without immediate reconstruction and oncoplastic surgery techniques.

      Breast conservation surgery, also known as a lumpectomy, removes only the tumor and part of the breast tissue during surgery, as opposed to the whole breast. The amount of tissue that is removed can vary greatly between patients. Lumpectomy is a treatment option for some women in the early stages of breast cancer. When cancer is found, a lumpectomy can be followed by radiation therapy to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

      Mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. There are several types of mastectomy, and which mastectomy is performed depends on how invasive the cancer is. In some cases, muscles or lymph nodes beneath the breast are also removed during the surgery.

      In some cases, physicians perform a sentinel node biopsy, which can be done in combination with a lumpectomy, or a mastectomy. This test is considered highly accurate and is performed to determine if breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The sentinel nodes are removed and analyzed for cancerous cells. This procedure dramatically reduces the risk of lymphedema and other arm problems.

      An axillary node dissection removes lymph nodes in the underarm area. This procedure can be done with a mastectomy or lumpectomy for women with invasive breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes.

      Normal, healthy lymphatic systems carry waste and fluids from the skin to the lymph nodes where they are filtered and exit the body. Lymphedema is a condition that occurs due to a failure in the lymphatic system where lymph nodes or vessels are damaged, removed or absent. This failure causes protein-rich fluid to accumulate under the skin causing swelling in the arms or legs. Lymphedema can occur any time after surgery or radiation.

      Chemotherapy is used to treat both early-stage invasive breast cancer and advanced breast cancer. It uses medicine to weaken or destroy cancer cells in the body.

      Radiation is a targeted therapy with the purpose of killing cancer cells that may still exist after surgery. Radiation therapy can reduce the risk of cancer returning after surgery.

      Hormone therapy works by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body and blocking the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells.

      Support Services

        Helping you find answers quickly

        Whether you found a lump as result of breast self-exam, mammogram or physician’s clinical exam, the sense of urgency remains the same. You want answers and test results quickly with few delays. That’s why we developed Breast Lifecare. Our radiologists and surgeons work as a team to provide as much information as possible in as few visits as possible to minimize the stress caused by multiple appointments and waiting.

        During a Breast Lifecare visit, you will have a consult with a breast surgeon. The breast surgeon will review your imaging with the breast radiologist. He will then discuss your plan of care with you. If a breast biopsy is recommended, it can be done the same day under most circumstances.

        Your doctor may refer you to Breast Lifecare as result of any of the following:

        • Breast lumps
        • Nipple discharge
        • Inverted nipple
        • Skin changes such as rash, dimpling, or redness
        • Positive finding on mammography, ultrasound, and/or MRI
        • Follow-up to a positive finding
        • Previous breast cancer surgery


        You may need additional tests, which could include digital mammography, ultrasound or minimally-invasive biopsy. Most often, we can conduct these tests during your first appointment, eliminating the need for additional appointments.

        Our team focuses on ensuring your comfort while delivering care in a compassionate, soothing, respectful atmosphere. With a state-of-the-art facility that features the latest technology, we take pride in providing you the best care, advice and treatment.

        Our certified breast cancer patient navigator, Marcella Sowell, guides newly diagnosed breast cancer patients through the healthcare system, providing guidance from the time of diagnosis through survivorship. 

        With extensive experience in oncology, radiology and patient education, Sowell guides patients through the diagnostic evaluation and provides education and one-on-one support, empowering patients to make informed treatment decisions. Sowell works closely with the breast surgeons as well as medical and radiation oncologists to provide our patients with the best continuity of care, increasing patient satisfaction, safety and quality of care. 

        Breast cancer support group meetings are also available and provide encouragement from other patients going through the same journey.

        For more information about Wes & Jan Houser Women’s Pavilion, call 417.347.7777.

        Financial Assistance

        Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO)

        Free screening mammograms are provided to uninsured and underinsured women who meet BCFO’s financial criteria. This program covers screening mammograms only. You can pick up an application packet at Wes & Jan Houser Women’s Pavilion front desk or contact:

        Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks
        620 W. Republic Rd., Ste. 107
        Springfield, MO 65807
        Phone: 417.862.3838
        Fax: 417.862.3830

        Show Me Healthy Women

        Show Me Healthy Women (SMHW) offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings for Missouri women who meet age, income and insurance guidelines.

        Access Family Care is the local provider and can be contacted at 417.782.6200

        Helping Friends Mammogram Fund

        Nearly 9,000 women in our community will go without a mammogram this year because of limited financial resources. You probably know some of these women — your friends, your neighbors or perhaps your relatives.

        Through Helping Friends Mammogram Fund, we partner with generous people like you to provide mammograms to those women who, without our help, would not receive them. Make a donation today.



        Freeman Women's Center

        Joplin, MO

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