The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 1, 2012

A decade after opening, Windber breast care center still shines brightly

WINDBER — Ten years after it was launched as a patient-centered, one-stop diagnostic and treatment facility, the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center at Windber Medical Center continues to be driven by that mission.

The woman whose name is on the sign couldn’t be more pleased with what the center has become.

“I try to come up here every couple of weeks,” Joyce Murtha said at the center. “I always go away feeling good because everybody is always so upbeat. Even people who just found out they have breast cancer.”

Inspired in part by breast cancer patient Jeanne Mc-Kelvey, and designed around a woman’s needs, the Windber center features the latest in diagnostic and treatment technology. But it’s the people and support network that have become Windber’s hallmark, Murtha said.

“It is like one woman I just talked to said, ‘I don’t want to go through this again, but if I have to, I can do it just because of this place. It picks me up just thinking about it,’ ” Murtha said.

The patient’s bittersweet praise was music to Murtha’s ears.

“That’s what we were trying to do here,” she said.

A focus on the patient has been at the heart of the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center’s design since it opened in February 2002, longtime Windber hospital board member David Klementik said during an anniversary celebration.

“We felt we could do better,” Klementik said. “We sent people to Ritz Carlton training center to learn how to exceed people’s expectations. Our staff today continues to take the image of how we are trying to exceed expectations, and they put a personal touch on it.”

But the center is also about good medicine, Director Patti Felton said. Windber Medical Center was the first in the region to offer digital mammography in 1998. The technology has been in use at the breast care center since it opened.

Windber was also among the first to provide magnetic resonance imaging for the breast, which is often used to analyze lesions found in a routine mammogram, imaging director Erin Goins said.

Over the past couple years, all the other hospitals in this region converted to digital mammography.

But that doesn’t mean Windber’s machines have been surpassed. The breast care center has continued to upgrade its equipment as the technology improved, Goins said.

“We now have new machines, and they are checked every year by a physicist,” Goins said. “We just got new attachments to do stereotactic biopsies. That will be an upgrade for the patients.”

Stereotactic biopsies are minimally invasive, image-guided procedures in which a needle-like tube is fed to the area targeted by a mammogram. The surgeon is then able to remove a small sample of the tissue for diagnosis, Felton said.

 “It’s the standard of care,” she said. “It is the least invasive for the patient. They leave with a Band-Aid and ice pack.”

As part of Windber Medical Center, patients coming to the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center tap into the hospital’s commitment to healing mind, body and spirit as a Planetree affiliate. Amenities include meditation gardens, a labyrinth trail, live therapeutic music, massage therapy, aroma therapy and more.

“I tell people we have a wonderful caring place here that will lift your spirits no matter how low you think you will be,” Murtha said. “And we will help you get through this. You won’t be sorry.”

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