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Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast Cancer Screening

All women are encouraged to get an annual mammogram starting at age 40. Through early diagnosis, mammograms have been shown to decrease breast cancer deaths by 40 percent. Seventy percent of breast cancer deaths in 2013 affected women who did not get a mammogram. Consult your primary care provider if you have a family history of breast cancer. You may consider getting screened earlier or more frequently.

We follow the mammogram guidelines recommended by the American College of Radiology, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Breast Biopsy

After your mammogram, we may recommend additional mammographic views or a breast ultrasound. Additional images may be necessary if the original images were not complete or if the radiologist wants to focus on a specific area. The radiologist may also recommend tomosynthesis, a new technology that provides 3-D imaging of the breast. Tomosynthesis is available at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

After additional views are collected, a breast biopsy may be recommended. Breast biopsies are performed with a core needle using mammogram, ultrasound or tomosynthesis. These biopsies are performed as an outpatient procedure with local anesthetic. You will be called with the results within three working days. Depending on the results of the biopsy, you may need close follow-up, a surgical biopsy or additional treatment for breast cancer. A nurse navigator will assist you through the process and help answer all your questions.

Ultrasound-guided (stereotactic), breast biopsies are available at St. Joseph Medical Center. Ultrasound- and tomosynthesis-guided biopsies are performed at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

Breast Cancer Treatment at St. Joseph Medical Center

If you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, a team of compassionate cancer specialists at St. Joseph Medical Center will work together to give you with the most up-to-date and timely treatments. This team of surgeons, oncologists (cancer doctors), radiation oncologists, pathologists (disease specialists) and radiologists will collaborate to determine the gentlest, most effective course of treatment.

Surgery to remove the cancer and check the lymph nodes in the arm pit (axilla) is often the first step in treatment. The oncologist will determine if you need chemotherapy, and the radiation oncologist will recommend radiation treatments if necessary.

Surgery and chemotherapy are offered at St. Joseph Medical Center, while radiation requires travel to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

Cancer Care You Need – Close to Home

Breast cancer treatment is available St. Joseph Medical Center. Dr. Robin Hape is a general surgeon who specializes in advanced surgical treatment for breast cancer. Surgical options for breast cancer include breast conservation surgery with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. We also check one lymph node in the arm pit (a sentinel lymph node biopsy). Dr. Hape is a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and stays current with the latest surgical treatments.

Here, you can expect to be seen quickly and receive safe, compassionate care. There is no need to travel to Missoula or Kalispell for breast cancer treatment. Dr. Linda Reis is a medical oncologist who also specializes in breast cancer treatment. Dr. Ries is from the Montana Cancer Center in Missoula and provides care in Polson one day a week.

Accessing Your Risk for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects one in eight women in the U.S. Your individual risk may be higher or lower depending on certain factors. If you have a primary relative (mother or sisters) who have had breast cancer, your risk increases by two to three times. If you have a more distant relative with breast cancer (cousins, aunts, grandmother), your risk is about 1.5 times higher.

Maintaining a healthy weight may lower your risk, while some hormone replacements (e.g., Premarin) have been shown to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute has an online risk calculator that you can use to assess your personal risk of developing breast cancer. If you are concerned about your risk, please discuss it with your primary care provider or Dr. Hape.

Robin Hape, MD FACS (General Surgery)

Robin Hape, MD in Polson, Montana, specializes in breast cancer surgery.

Dr. Hape grew up in southwest Montana and attended Montana State University. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and completed his general surgery residency training through the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. He practiced in Grand Forks, N.D., for 10 years before returning to Montana. While in Grand Forks, he specialized in surgical oncology (cancer surgery) and about one-third of his patients had breast cancer.

He is a board-certified general surgeon, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. He served as the Cancer Liaison Physician between the Cancer Center in Grand Forks and the American College of Surgeon, which accredits cancer centers. He was honored with the “Outstanding Cancer Liaison Physician” by the American College of Surgeons in 2009.

Linda Ries, MD (Oncology)


Dr. Ries graduated from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, where she received honors in general pathology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, family practice and radiology.

She is board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology and is a member of the American Society of Oncology and the American Society of Hematology.