Doctor retiring after building comprehensive breast care center
When Dr. Terese Kaske moved to Steamboat Springs seven years ago to become the first full-time breast radiologist at Yampa Valley Medical Center, her goal was to communicate directly with as many of the screening patients as possible. The radiologist wanted any patients needing diagnostic care to be able to speak with her one-on-one.
That personal concern is one of the aspects that makes interactions at the UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center stand out from some other medical screening visits. Kaske wants patients with breast health concerns not to be left waiting and worrying.
“We still provide immediate results for any women with a personal history of breast cancer, women who have special needs, women who come from out of town, all of our diagnostic patients and women who request and schedule an immediate reading,” Kaske said, noting that other patients without high risk factors receive a call with results within one to two business days.
In 2019, the local breast health center served more than 3,000 patients from across the area for basic screening mammograms. Across the country, standard medical screenings were often postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the volume of mammogram patients at the local center are back on track and comparable with 2019 numbers.
Since she is turning 65 later this year, Kaske is retiring this month and turning the reins of breast care center director over to Dr. Malaika Thompson, who is a board-certified, fellowship-trained breast radiologist. Thompson has been one of the radiologists at YVMC since July 2010 and has worked part time in the breast center since 2019.
“It’s really a strikingly impressive and comprehensive clinic that provides optimal, thorough, up-to-date care for women of the regional community. This would be an impressive center in Denver, and here, we have it in Steamboat. Dr. Kaske’s incredible dedication to developing it is really quite a gift, so I’m honored to carry that on,” Thompson said.
“I’m proud of the fact that we have been successful in building a good program with a wonderful team and a supportive hospital and board,” Kaske said. “We can take care of women quickly, accurately and make early diagnoses and save lives.”
Kaske said her main goal in coming to Steamboat was to expand and organize a breast center for the women of northwest Colorado that could offer all of the services “under one roof,” rivaling Front Range centers.
In a joint interview last week, Kaske and Thompson noted the breast center along with the UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center and local surgeons can provide the same breast diagnostic and cancer services as a large, municipal hospital, except for radiation therapy for cancer.
Through her seven-year tenure, Kaske guided advancements at the center and supervised an increase in staff and center size. In 2014, the center offered basic mammography, ultrasound and ultrasound-guided core biopsies. Within Kaske’s first year, the center added ultrasound vacuum-assisted biopsies, stereotactic, or x-ray-guided, biopsies, and breast MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging.
In 2015, the center added tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, which has been updated recently to incorporate the latest technology and the lowest radiation doses possible.
“We ramped up our high-risk screening assessment program in 2015. Many women are best served by the addition of breast MRI when they have dense breast tissue and strong family histories of breast and ovarian cancer. We have found many unsuspected small cancers with this technology,” Kaske said.
Genetic testing was instituted in 2016 for consideration by patients with a history of multiple family members with cancers or a specific type of high-risk cancer.
The center added screening breast ultrasound services, also known as ABUS, or automated breast ultrasound system, in 2018 to help care for the 50% of women who have dense breast tissue in order to help identify concerns earlier. The thorough breast ultrasound is not offered at all breast centers because it is time consuming, the doctors said.
Working with local surgeons in 2019, the center updated to a wireless surgical guidance system as a localization technique for tumors to be removed through surgery. Instead of old techniques of inserting a locating wire into the breast, the Savi Scout system uses a reflector about the size of a grain of rice that can be inserted at the tumor site up to 30 days before surgery. The tiny reflector is located by hand-held radar so that surgeons can precisely target tissue and perform a smoother and easier surgical procedure.
The breast center doctors said much of their work encompasses education, answering questions and enabling diagnostic comfort that a lump found in a woman’s breast is more often related to common fibrocystic changes, a simple cyst or a benign mass.
“We are giving a lot of reassurance to a lot of women that there isn’t anything bad,” Kaske said.
The retiring doctor said she visited Steamboat for 25 years before she moved to town. Now she plans to spend time traveling with her husband, who is also a doctor and is retiring from his medical practice in Denver.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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