SouthCoast Health Celebrates One Year of High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic, the First of Its Kind in Savannah

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SouthCoast Health is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Christa L. Jillard, who joined the practice on Sept. 1, 2015, leads the clinic, which became the first of its kind in Savannah.

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I also feel I have an obligation as a female surgeon not only to relate to patients who have this – I have friends and family who have been afflicted with this disease – but to use my skillset to really make a difference.

SouthCoast Health is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Christa L. Jillard, who joined the practice on Sept. 1, 2015, leads the clinic, which became the first of its kind in Savannah.

The clinic’s goals are early detection of women at high risk for breast cancer, to treat those at risk preventatively using a variety of measures and to use aggressive oncological treatments for those in need. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), with 1-in-8 women (12 percent) developing invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. More than 7,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in Georgia women in 2016, according to ACS estimates, and nearly 1,300 will die as a result of it.

Dr. Jillard said that she wants to be an advocate for women in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. She recently became certified by medical technology company and surgical device manufacturer Invuity in its Hidden Scar surgical procedures, making her the only surgeon in Savannah with such a distinction. The cause of treating women with breast cancer – and women’s health, in general – is dear to Dr. Jillard, whose grandmother was diagnosed with the disease.

“Being a female, I do have a strong interest in breast cancer,” Dr. Jillard said. “I also feel I have an obligation as a female surgeon not only to relate to patients who have this – I have friends and family who have been afflicted with this disease – but to use my skillset to really make a difference. Seeing that this is a specific kind of clinic that has not been established in Savannah, I see it as a great avenue and potential area for growth to make an impact on women here locally.”

Women at high risk are those considered to have a five-year risk of developing breast cancer that is greater than 1.7 percent or those who have a lifetime risk of greater than 20 percent. To identify women at high risk, SouthCoast Health will use the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, also known as the “Gail model,” developed by scientists at the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). The model has been tested and refined for more than 50 years to provide clinicians the highest possible degree of accuracy.

Dr. Jillard cited ACS data that show a decrease in mortality of 34 percent between 1990 and 2010, largely because of improved surveillance and early detection — which, she said, are the hallmarks of work performed by high risk breast cancer clinics.

SouthCoast Health brings a multi-disciplinary approach to its clinic, involving 15 to 20 clinicians across a range of specialties.

The clinic offers:

  •     Patient-specific stratification for development of breast cancer
  •     Individualized planning for oncologic surveillance
  •     Referral for chemoprevention as appropriate (some drugs can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent)
  •     Prophylactic breast surgery as indicated
  •     Patient counseling in lifestyle modification and risk reduction

Dr. Christa L. Jillard is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and practices at SouthCoast Health’s offices in Savannah, Hinesville and Bluffton. A graduate of Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, she completed her residency in general surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She completed a fellowship in endocrine surgery at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., and is affiliated at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital and Memorial Health University Medical Center.

SouthCoast Health is a multi-specialty, physician-owned medical group with 80 physicians and 18 locations. The organization has been providing quality healthcare solutions to the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry for more than 20 years and is dedicated to complete patient wellbeing. For more information, visit http://www.SouthCoast-Health.com and connect with SouthCoast Health on Facebook.

Interviews available upon request.

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