When you hear the words: “You Have Breast Cancer”Last updated: Mar 21, 2016
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Two years ago, Carrie Decker found a lump in her breast. After several tests, her worst fear became a reality: they found cancer. She was immediately scheduled for a double mastectomy, a surgical procedure that removes all of the breast tissue. Ms. Decker was only 41 years old.
“The words—you have cancer—are something you never think you are going to hear,” she describes. “Everything my doctor said after that sounded like the Charlie Brown school teacher. I basically fell off the chair crying.”
As a patient at the Summit Medical Group Breast Care Center, Ms. Decker says she felt like she had an army behind her. Dedicated solely to treating diseases of the breast, the center offers a continuum of care for patients in all stages of their breast cancer journey, from diagnosis to surgery and treatment to survivorship. The center, which consists of a integrative team of breast surgeons, medical oncologists, and nurses all housed in the same convenient location, is one of only two centers in New Jersey—designated as a Certified Quality Breast Center of Excellence by the National Consortium of Breast Centers.
“When we opened the center, we knew we wanted to establish a place where patients could get in for appointments very easily,” explains Jerrold S. Lozner, MD, MHA, FACS, a Breast Surgeon at the Breast Care Center. “Our dream was to have a multidisciplinary team that could answer all of our patients’ questions in a one stop shop type of atmosphere.”
Rapid Coordination of Breast Care Services
Since all aspects of care are contained within the same group, patients receive a diagnosis and treatment plan very quickly. For example, women who have an abnormal finding on a mammogram or physical exam are typically scheduled for follow-up imaging or procedures within a day or two.
"At Summit Medical Group, patients can have imaging, biopsies, and consult with breast surgeons and medical oncologists all in the same convenient location," says John Cunningham, MD, Surgical Service Line Director at the Summit Medical Group. “Our goal is to make the process as easy as possible for patients during what can be one of the most stressful times in their lives."
Nearly one in every five women with suspicious mammograms are sent for a biopsy —a minimally invasive procedure that uses a thin needle to remove and examine a piece of the breast tissue. Since pathologists evaluate the sample onsite, physicians usually have an answer within three or four days and if cancer is found, they can lay out a treatment plan within a week.
That convenience immediately put Lyza Lyon at ease two years ago when Dr. Lozner diagnosed her with breast cancer. “Before receiving this news, I was very healthy overall so processing the information and getting a handful of appointments and tests within two weeks was overwhelming to say the least,” describes the 43-year-old mother of two young children. “Being at Summit Medical Group made my life easier, so I have been there ever since.”
Breast Nurse Navigators Guide Patients Along Every Step
But what made Ms. Lyon and Ms. Decker feel even more comfortable were the physicians, office nurses, and nurse navigators who spent countless hours explaining medical information to them. “My breast surgeon, Diana M. Addis, MD, FACS, was amazing, compassionate, and direct. I remember her telling me—if you were my sister, this is what I would tell you to do. She gave me the worst news of my life, and then she saved my life. I am so thankful to her,” says Ms. Decker.
The goal of the Breast Care Center is to empower and educate patients like Ms. Lyon so they become partners in their care. This process starts with a team of breast nurse navigators, who helps guide the patient through their cancer journey from the moment they have an abnormal mammogram through diagnosis and survivorship.
“We help them overcome barriers, such as fear and lack of information. I am also a liaison with the providers to make sure everyone knows what is going on with the patient at every point in their care,” explains Carol Boyer, RN, APN-C, AOCNS, CN-BP, Clinical Program Manager and Certified Breast Nurse Navigator who leads a team of Nurse Navigators at the Summit Medical Group Breast Care Center. The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers has cited the Breast Care Center as having best practice designations in the area of Navigation and Breast Reconstruction.
Five years ago, Dr. Cunningham says the center was one of the few places that offered nurse navigators. “Patients are often overwhelmed by the amount of information, or they are reluctant or afraid to ask the physician certain questions. Our team of nurse navigators are available anytime to help,” he says.
Ms. Lyon, for example, was struggling with making a decision about her surgical options. Her breast nurse navigator, Joanne Vasios, RN, CN-BN, was instrumental in helping her make an informed decision.
“The navigators would share other experiences or validate the thoughts or symptoms I was having,” Ms. Lyon describes. “They were like talking to a close friend who happened to know everything about breast cancer. It takes a certain person to be a nurse, but in takes a heart filled with love to be a navigator.”
Advanced Surgical and Medical Treatment for Breast Cancer
The majority of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer require surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Summit Medical Group has highly-trained breast surgeons [LINK “breast surgeons” to: ] who specialize in all aspects of breast cancer surgery, including reconstructive and plastic surgery. If a patient is having a lumpectomy, it can be performed conveniently at the outpatient Ambulatory Surgery practice. [LINK: ambulatory surgery practice” to:
Depending on the type of cancer, the Breast Care Center has medical oncologists who team with patients during the next step of their treatment. During her five-month course of chemotherapy, Ms. Decker says her physicians took the time to listen and make the treatment as comfortable as possible. “There are no words to describe how helpful my doctor was,” she says. “And my wonderful nurse navigator, Joanne, was with me at every appointment.”
“A new diagnosis of breast cancer is one of the scariest and most critical times in a person’s life,” says Jennifer G. Reeder, MD, a Medical Oncologist with Summit Medical Group. “A woman needs someone who has answers and can provide them in a compassionate and clear way, and try to get her to the point where she understands what is going on and can make the right decisions for her.”
Ms. Boyer says most of her patients receive treatment and go on to lead a normal life. The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is one year later when she sees them with their family doing well.
That was certainly the case with Ms. Decker who is now cancer-free. “I am proud of being a survivor,” she says. “I hate the reason why I am in this sorority, but I would not change it for anything. I am amazed by the women I have met and the strength of how much we have endured.”
JOIN THE SUMMIT MEDICAL GROUP TEAM FOR
THE SUSAN G KOMEN RACE
TO BEAT BREAST CANCER
Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure®
Sunday, May 1st, 2016
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