Striving for the Best in Breast Health

By Trevor Willingham
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Equipped with the latest technology and a devoted, multidisciplinary team, the Dr. Hadley J. Falk Breast Health Center at Crouse Hospital offers state-of-the-art services to ensure women who are diagnosed with breast cancer can navigate comfortably from testing to treatment.

Surgeons William Schu, MD (left), Tammy Congelli, MD, and James Sartori, MD, are members of the Crouse Breast Health interdisciplinary team.

The majority of women who enter the doors of the Falk Breast Health Center for routine screening mammograms leave with assurances that no complications were found on their tests. For the others — the roughly one in eight women who, according to the American Cancer Society, will have their lives changed by the discovery of breast cancer — knowing that an advanced center for breast care is available in their community can be extremely reassuring.

The Falk Breast Health Center is the area’s first facility to be designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR). This designation is awarded only to breast imaging centers that actively meet or exceed the stringent requirements put in place by the ACR. The center is also accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), an honor bestowed by the American College of Surgeons.

“Earning recognition as an NAPBC center shows that our comprehensive care goes far beyond imaging,” says Stephen Montgomery, MD, Medical Director of the Falk Breast Health Center. “We meet and strive to surpass the American College of Surgeons’ rigorous standards at all stages of the process, from diagnosis to recovery.”

A New Dimension to Care

For years, the healthcare industry has preached the importance of early detection. Advances in breast imaging and standardized screening recommendations such as those espoused by the American Cancer Society have improved the frequency with which providers identify breast cancer in its early stages.

In the past, 2-D mammography was considered the standard for breast cancer screening. While it remains a valuable option for diagnostic screening and is accepted by insurance companies, digital tomosynthesis — also known as 3-D mammography — has begun to take precedence as the standard for identifying breast cancer or ruling out the disease.

“Each year, tens of thousands of people lose their lives to breast cancer. Fortunately, with the equipment and information we now possess, early detection has improved and mortality rates are in steady decline.”
— Stephen Montgomery, MD, Medical Director of the Dr. Hadley J. Falk Breast Center at Crouse Hospital

Digital tomosynthesis creates a three-dimensional picture of the breast using X-ray technology. Individual images taken during 3-D mammography are only 1 millimeter thick. During the test, multiple images of the breasts are compiled for improved clarity without a major increase in X-ray exposure.

“We are proud to be one of the first centers in the area to incorporate 3-D mammography into our screenings,” says Tammy Congelli, MD, general surgeon and partner with Central New York Surgical Physicians, PC. “The results have been exceptional. We find as many as 25 percent more cancers at an earlier stage than we did with 2-D mammography, and we are finding tumors as small as 4 millimeters in size.”

When paired with the experience and expertise of breast imaging physicians at Crouse Radiology Associates, 3-D mammography technology goes a long way toward superior patient outcomes.

Treating the Individual

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be an unnerving experience for anyone. The Falk Breast Health Center staff help alleviate that stress by using nurse navigators who play a crucial role in streamlining the process for patients and physicians alike.

“There is much behind-the-scenes work that must be done to ensure our patients are cared for on an individual basis,” Dr. Congelli says. “Our nurse navigators do an exceptional job of making sure nothing is missed — whether that be medical appointments or ensuring a patient’s questions are answered on a medical, pharmaceutical or financial level.”

Furthermore, a breast cancer diagnosis for one patient may be completely different from another’s. There is no cookie-cutter way of going about treatment. Nurse navigators ease communication among multidisciplinary cancer care team members and with a patient, making sure her unique circumstances are being addressed.

“There are numerous disciplines involved in cancer care,” says Katie Tindall, RN, BSN, nurse navigator at Central New York Surgical Physicians, PC. “It is my job as a nurse navigator to ensure specialists are communicating with each other and that information is passed along to the patient.”

To facilitate clear communication, the Falk Breast Health Center holds an interdisciplinary conference every two weeks to evaluate the individualized care plan for each patient.

Nurse navigators Katie Tindall, RN, BSN (left), Mandy O’Neil, RN, and Patricia Duffy, RN, play a key role providing highly coordinated patient care for patients in the Crouse Breast Health Care program.

“We take this time to discuss the patient’s clinical history, imaging results and treatment options in great detail,” Tindall says. “With everyone in the room, we gather input from a host of different specialties so recommendations or decisions are not made in a vacuum.”

When a patient diagnosed with breast cancer requires surgery, Tindall guides the individual through the surgical process and coordinates any required follow-up treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, with another Crouse Hospital partner: Hematology-Oncology Associates of Central New York. Patients also benefit from a collaboration with Breast Care Partners, a local initiative to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients in our community.

Crouse Hospital’s affiliation with Community Memorial Hospital in Hamilton extends the expertise of the Falk Breast Health Center to patients in that area. While 3-D mammography technology is utilized for screening, Community Memorial patients are referred to Crouse Hospital when further diagnostic testing is required.

Working closely with each of its healthcare partners allows the Falk Breast Health Center to build upon its reputation in Central New York as a premier resource for breast cancer patients and their families.

A Trailblazer for Breast Cancer Care

Since the doors opened in 1993, the Dr. Hadley J. Falk Breast Health Center at Crouse Hospital has housed the latest techniques and technologies, giving patients the best possible advantages when battling breast cancer. Embracing advances has endowed the center with a reputation for innovation and made it possible for providers to administer exceptional care during one of the most trying experiences a patient may ever undergo.

“We have been pioneers in the breast cancer care field in Central New York from the very start,” says Stephen Montgomery, MD, Medical Director of the Falk Breast Health Center. “By staying ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest technology, we can offer our patients the very best care possible.”

With the support of Crouse Hospital, the Falk Breast Health Center was an area leader in adopting many technologies, including:

  • 1993 – Prone stereotactic core biopsy table
  • 1997 – Breast MRIs
  • 2002 – Standardized digital mammography
  • 2013 – Digital breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammography)

For more information about referring patients to the Falk Breast Health Center or to make an appointment, call 315-470-5880 or visit