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Battling Breast Cancer With Leading Edge Technology and Early Detection

Submitted Photo Nevada Union Lady Miners Volleyball (pictured) hosted a rousing Pink Night on Oct. 12 with proceeds going toward breast cancer equipment that will serve our community.

Two words — breast cancer — can invoke an array of warranted emotions. Whether a loved one has been diagnosed, a relative has passed away, or you are battling breast cancer yourself, almost everyone knows someone who has faced or is currently facing the disease that one in eight women will develop during her lifetime.

According to cancer.org, breast cancer incidence rates have increased in the U.S. by .5% and death rates for women younger than 50 have shown no sign of decreasing. To that end, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is working with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation to ensure the tools needed to continue fighting breast cancer are available now and for generations to come.

SNMHF is currently working to raise $350,000 by June 30, 2022, to provide upgraded surgical equipment to the hospital’s operating rooms. Of that total, nearly $145,000 will provide leading-edge equipment for breast cancer surgeries.



One of the two new pieces of technology will utilize a highly accurate radio frequency tag to mark lesions for surgical removal, thereby eliminating the use of invasive wires or radioactive materials. The second piece of new equipment will produce rapid, high-quality images used to ensure clear margins during breast surgeries or tumor biopsies.

Local surgeon Stephen Waterbrook, MD, says he is eager to begin utilizing the new equipment in the fight against breast cancer.



“The ability to perform more precise surgical procedures will allow our patients to obtain the quality of life they deserve,” says Dr. Waterbrook. “This new equipment will play a vital role in ensuring all have access to the best medical care possible.”

In addition to life-saving surgery, medical experts agree one of the most vital tools in fighting breast cancer in communities around the world is early detection. One of the best ways to find breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages, is via a mammogram.

SNMHF raised $150,000 to help fund new state-of-the-art mammography equipment. That, plus a significant investment from SNMH, will provide over 4,000 mammograms a year to patients at SNMH’s Women’s Imaging Center. The new equipment is due to arrive later this year.

According to breastcancer.org, finding breast cancer early reduces the risk of dying from the disease by at least 25-30%. However, mammograms can still miss 20% of breast cancers that are simply not visible using this technology. Other important tools — such as breast self-exam, clinical breast examination, and ultrasound or MRI — can and should be used as complementary tools, but there are no substitutes or replacements for a mammogram.

Dr. Waterbrook says he has seen firsthand the benefits of mammograms and other early detection screenings for breast cancer.

“I’ve had so many patients who told me they were so glad to have gotten their mammograms or to have talked to their doctors when they did because things could have turned out much worse for them if they had waited longer,” Dr. Waterbrook said.

Dr. Waterbrook advises women to start having mammograms at age 40. He also encourages women not to skip years just because nothing shows up during a screening. Doctors can see changes in breast tissue from year to year on mammograms. Breast cancer found during a mammogram is more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast.

By the time a woman notices a lump, there’s a chance the cancer may have spread to other areas of the body. Once cancer is detected, receiving the right care is paramount. SNMH offers coordinated care — from diagnosis through surgery and/or accompanying treatment.

According to experts, the bottom line is breast cancer that is found early — when it’s small and has not spread — is easier to treat successfully. With new, state-of-the-art equipment, the chance of that success increases even more for yourself, your friends, loved ones and neighbors here in western Nevada County.

Whether you are a breast cancer survivor, an individual currently fighting breast cancer, or a friend or loved one of someone who has or had breast cancer, a donation toward new breast cancer surgical equipment will touch thousands of lives in our community.

Make a difference today; visit supportsierranevada.org/donate to make a secure online donation to our surgery equipment fund. You can also send a check made out to SNMHF to PO Box 1810, Grass Valley, CA 95945 or give us a call at 530.477.9700 to make your donation over the phone. Because of you, we are able to provide high quality healthcare to our community when it is needed most.


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