A guest post from the Medical Director of FMH’s Regional Cancer Therapy Center, Dr. Mark Soberman:
At FMH, we’re committed to the multidisciplinary care of our cancer patients. No one physician can provide all of your cancer care; it takes a team!
Nowhere is this more evident than at the Monocacy Health Partners Center for Breast Care at FMH Crestwood. When a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer or is told he or she has a suspicious mammogram, life changes in an instant. Various doctors’ appointments, tests and procedures must be scheduled. In many communities, this is the start of a game of “patient pong”, where the patient runs from office to office and facility to facility, trying to get the necessary care. Different imaging facilities and various medical specialists are often located in multiple locations, aggravating an already stressful situation and delaying treatment. At the same time, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists play telephone tag, trying to compare notes and come up with a coherent, unified treatment plan.
At the Center for Breast Care, all services are co-located in a single facility, maximizing convenience and minimizing stress. Our two board-certified breast surgeons, nurse practitioners and nurse navigator are laser focused on caring for patients with breast disease. When new patients call, they are referred to our navigator, who guides them through the entire care process, providing an experience that minimizes stress and the time from diagnosis to treatment.
Imaging and biopsies are done on site in our state-of-the-art breast imaging center. An imaging navigator coordinates with the Center for Breast Care navigator, ensuring seamless diagnosis and treatment. Newly diagnosed patients are evaluated in our multidisciplinary clinic on Friday afternoons, where they see a fellowship-trained breast surgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist all at the same time. Our specialists then meet, discuss the case and come to a consensus regarding the best treatment plan. That plan is communicated to the patient before he or she leaves the clinic that afternoon.
Our navigator, with the help of our administrative staff, takes care of all scheduling and provides education regarding treatment. The Center for Breast Care also provides support services, addressing patients’ non-medical needs. Cancer affects people emotionally as well as physically, and impacts the entire family. Social work, pastoral care, financial counselors and other support services are available as needed.
As a final check, all diagnosed breast cancer patients are discussed at the Breast Tumor Board on the Tuesday immediately following Friday’s multidisciplinary clinic. This conference includes oncology specialists in addition to those directly caring for the patient, pathologists, radiologists, social workers, cancer registrars and others. The tumor board serves as a form of “quality control”, providing additional perspectives and review of every patient’s diagnosis, staging and treatment.
In addition, the Center for Breast Care is the only program in our area to offer immediate breast reconstruction. Women who undergo mastectomy may choose to have immediate breast reconstruction. Many centers are unable to offer this option, but we do. Working closely with our community’s most respected plastic and reconstructive surgeon, our breast surgeons can offer a single stage solution, when appropriate. This is just one more way that the Center for Breast Care addresses all of the needs of our patients.
We provide total care, not just for the breast cancer patient under active treatment, but for those who are at high risk for developing breast cancer and for patients who have completed their treatment. When treatment is complete, patients receive a survivorship plan spelling out a long term follow up surveillance strategy as well as resources for maintaining wellness, fitness and nutrition. We are launching a wellness program at FMH Crestwood that will incorporate exercise and nutritional counseling, all overseen by an oncology certified exercise physiologist and licensed dietician. Later this year, we will also offer a high risk clinic for women who are at risk for developing breast cancer or who wish to learn more about their cancer risk. Genetic counseling and testing, risk modification and surveillance services will be available.
Breast cancer is, unfortunately, a common disease. At FMH, our approach to breast care is decidedly uncommon. We’ve built a team that is dedicated to the care of patients with breast disease. We do it because it’s best for our patients and our community. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.