Scripps Polster Breast Care Center is well known for its diagnostic services and unique approach to patient care. The warm environment at Scripps Polster makes it easier for women to get mammograms and other potentially lifesaving diagnostics. However, the help does not stop there. For women who test positive for breast cancer, the center becomes an important resource for information and psychological support.
Located in the XiMED Building on the campus of Scripps La Jolla, Polster has its roots in The Lybrand Mammography and Education Center, which was established in 1987. Supervisor Patty Werdowatz, who worked at Lybrand and helped open Scripps Polster, notes that the facilities were set up with similar goals.
“Mammography can be a frightening experience,” says Werdowatz. “We wanted to create facilities that offer these and other critical services in a welcoming environment.”
Opened in 2000, Scripps Polster was created to help comfort women undergoing an uncomfortable procedure. From the moment a patient enters the building, she understands that this is not a typical medical facility. The geranium-colored walls, halogen lights, fountains and fine art make the center look more like a spa than a physician’s office. Trained volunteers greet patients at the door and guide them through paperwork.
However, the difference at Scripps Polster goes well beyond its acclaimed design and excellent customer service. Though the center does not offer chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, it does help women navigate these and other choices if they are diagnosed with cancer.
One way the center enhances care is through liaison nurses like Bev Mangerich, R.N. When a test comes back positive, which may mean the patient has cancer or that she needs more tests, Mangerich helps patients assess their options. She calls the patient and informs her of the test results. The center also offers biopsy services, and if the biopsy is positive, Mangerich can help the patient with information and referrals.
“We try to educate patients where they need education, but we don’t make decisions for them,” she says. “We simply want to help them make informed choices.”
One patient who benefited from this level of care was Norah, who survived breast cancer in 1993, only to be diagnosed with a different form of the disease in 2005. Because she had received the maximum dose of radiation in ‘93, her only option was a mastectomy. Norah was overwhelmed by the diagnosis and the many decisions she would have to make. Should she have reconstructive surgery? If so, what kind? She walked into the center in tears. Though she did not have an what she was doing, took Norah aside and helped discuss her options. Norah left the building with a stack of books from the center’s library, a better understanding of her choices and a calmer demeanor. “It’s a very kind atmosphere,” she says.
This personable, humanistic approach is one way the center encourages women to take advantage of its sophisticated diagnostic equipment. When Scripps Polster opened, it was equipped with one ultrasound and three mammogram machines. As volumes increased, the center added additional mammography and ultrasound units. The center also offers stereotactic biopsy, and in 2003, purchased an R2 checker, which digitizes mammograms and uses sophisticated software to detect problem areas a radiologist may not be able to identify. Some of the center’s refinements, however, are decidedly low-tech. The staff learned that patients disliked the one-size-fits-all gowns, so they added different sizes. Another addition has been chair massages. It’s the last service patients receive before leaving, helping to ease their tension before they return to the world.
Scripps Polster will continue to grow and is now working to add digital mammography machines. The new digital equipment will provide virtually instant images which can be sent to specialists throughout Scripps’ secure network. However, the primary mission remains the same: provide a comforting environment where women can access mammography and learn more about breast health.