System News

Wednesday, June 28, 2023 - New lab test advances care for Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s breast cancer patients

Above: Roper Hospital histology lab's new BenchMark ULTRA IHC/ISH System advances Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s testing capabilities for breast cancer prognosis and more.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare patients who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer will know the next step of their treatment plan faster than anywhere else in the Lowcountry because of new rapid in-house lab testing enhancements.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare is the only healthcare system in Charleston with an in-house test for Her2neu in-situ hybridization, one of four used to differentiate between specific types of breast cancer. This test helps physicians determine how aggressive the cancer is and what course of treatment they should follow. This new enhancement supports Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s Strategic Plan 2030 goal to address the clinical needs of the future.

“Cancer patients want clarity,” said Breast Surgeon Dr. Phillip Albaneze. “When they’ve been diagnosed, they want to know what we can do for them. By offering this service in-house, we’re alleviating the frustration of waiting and increasing our ability to build trust and goodwill.”

Previously, it took more than a week to receive these test results. Now, the lab can return results to clinicians the following day.

“Now, I can almost immediately tell patients what they need to know,” Dr. Albaneze said. “This is huge.”

Breast cancer accounts for about 30 percent of all new cancer cases in women each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The Roper Hospital histology lab runs an average of 25 breast cancer profiles per week and five to ten of those include the new in-house test for Her2neu in-situ hybridization.

Director of Laboratory Services Vanessa Shamrock said she’s excited for her team’s role in improving the patient experience.

“The whole pathology team was thrilled to sign out our first case,” Shamrock said. “It feels good to provide a service that directly benefits our patients and clinicians. We feel that in rolling out this change, we’re making a difference.”

The lab team collaborated with Medical Director of the Oncology Integrated Practice Network Dr. Megan Baker as well lab information systems and Epic teams to ensure the change would occur as seamlessly as possible.

“This was a big project, and it took a cross-departmental effort to implement,” Shamrock said. “Not only are we cutting down delays for physicians to receive results, but we needed MyChart and Cerner to work together so that patients can access their results in real-time as well.”

Roper St. Francis Healthcare has been steadily amping up its breast care capabilities with new initiatives. Most recently, the healthcare system implemented self-referral mammography, allowing patients to schedule their own annual screenings through MyChart.

“As we know, screening mammography saves lives,” Dr. Albaneze said. “Every advancement we make to improve access to care is lifesaving.”

The system has also grown its breast care services with the addition of new breast care coordinators who help patients with abnormal mammogram results navigate further testing, care and treatment.

Shamrock is proud of her team’s contribution to advancing breast care at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, she said.

“This one really stands out for what we’re able to do for our patients,” she said. “Making a positive impact is always our goal.”

Above: Histology lab teammates at Roper Hospital.

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