Radiologist Carol Anne Luttrell, M.D., director of the East Jefferson General Hospital Breast Care Center, is looking forward to the completion of the renovation and expansion of the center.
“Over the years, we’ve definitely increased our patient population,” says Dr. Luttrell, who has been the director since it was established in June 2002. “We’re looking to accommodate those additional women as well as decrease waiting times. Hopefully this will allow us to get our routine screening patients in and out and back to their day quickly. The expansion’s increased resources should also allow diagnostic patients quicker results and decreased anxiety.”
To streamline the process, the breast care center has incorporated an additional patient registration/check-in desk as well as separate sub-waiting rooms for the routine screening patients and the more complex diagnostic mammogram patients who need a place to wait while their test results are processed.
Other additions include a third mammography suite, which will house the centers second 3D mammography unit and an upright stereotactic breast biopsy device. The upright biopsy system offers a new level of comfort for breast biopsy patients who are elderly or unable to lie prone for long periods of time. It also permits greater flexibility for certain lesions and allows biopsy of lesions seen only on 3D images. In the past, many of these patients were sent for a more invasive surgical biopsy requiring general anesthesia.
Dr. Luttrell is humble but admits that reputation and comprehensive care are the reasons behind patient increases. “It’s the premier breast care center in this area because we are a comprehensive full-service breast care center focused on patient care,” she says. “We offer a full range of state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and interventional services in one location.”
What sets EJGH apart from outpatient women’s health care facilities, says Dr. Luttrell, is that they deploy a multi-disciplinary or team approach to the diagnosis and fight against breast cancer. The four radiologists at the center join surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists and pathologists who work together to form a comprehensive treatment plan. And a nurse navigator assists each individual patient every step of the way.
“It couldn’t work if we didn’t all work so closely as a team,” Dr. Luttrell says. “The four breast care nurses are a huge part of it. They provide emotional support, breast health education, case management and referral facilitation. Patients with an abnormal diagnostic mammogram requiring further evaluation meet with a nurse the same day. The nurse sets up additional diagnostic tests, breast biopsy, and/or surgical consultation as needed. The patient leaves that day knowing the next step of her care plan, which is so important in helping to alleviate the fear of the unknown.”
Dr. Luttrell still remembers a grade school drawing she colored with an adorable misspelling that said, “When I grow up, I want to be a narse.” In small town Pulaski, Virginia, her grandfather was the town doctor, and she thought nursing was all that was available to her as a girl. So she also remembers quite distinctly how excited she was to learn that she could be a doctor instead.
Those moments were only the start of her interest in women’s health. Now, before she interacts with her patients, she always tries to put herself in their shoes. She asks herself, ‘What would I like a physician to tell me at this point if it were me … if that were me or that were my sister or that were my mother?’ She takes pride in the time she takes educating patients and alleviating most of their concerns. “A lot of biopsies that we do turn out to be benign — in fact the majority,” she says.
“I’m so drawn to the breast care center,” she says. “In radiology, we’re often reading studies where we don’t see the patients, we just see their images. This is one of the few fields in radiology where you’re actually interacting with the patient. I find that so rewarding.”
Her patients— some of whom have sent cards and flowers in gratitude for early diagnosis or exceptional care — seem to agree she has found her calling.
Doctor of Medicine: Medical College of Virginia
Residency: Radiology, Tulane University Medical Center
Specialty: Breast Imaging; Board Certified, American Board of Radiology
As originally shown in New Orleans Living Magazine.