Sitting together in her office, your physician just said the ‘C’ word — at least you think she did.
“You have breast cancer.”
Just let that sink in. It feels like the wind has been knocked out of you, your mind both racing and wiped blank, and emotions of fear, stress and anger wash over you. Now what?
- You will meet with a surgeon first. The surgeon will discuss your diagnosis and order more continued work-up for your breast cancer. A multidisciplinary team will then work together with the surgeon to present at the breast tumor conference.
- Your case will be reviewed by an entire team of experts. Every week, 15 to 20 Avera Cancer Institute breast cancer specialists — surgeons, oncologists, geneticists, pathologists, etc. — meet to analyze the cases of Avera breast cancer patients. They put their heads together to direct the most appropriate treatment options. There’s also the possibility of Avera’s Breast Cancer Consult Clinic, which offers patients who are newly diagnosed and desiring a second opinion an opportunity to meet with a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and breast surgeon in one visit.
- Genetic counseling/testing may be ordered. If breast cancer has been found on your family tree, genetic testing may take place before surgery. “Genetic testing helps us determine if there’s been a gene mutation within the family lineage,” explained Terveen. About five to 10 percent of breast cancers are found to have a hereditary mutation.
- A breast patient navigator will be there to guide you through treatment. Two breast-specific nurse practitioner navigators work together with your multidisciplinary team to address any of your questions or concerns during your care. Also, they help with the education and understanding of breast cancer and treatment. And because your questions don’t end at 5 p.m., you can call the Avera Cancer Institute Navigation Center at 888-422-1410. They are available after hours and at night.
- “Avera’s philosophy involves caring for the mind, body and spirit,” said Terveen. A chaplain is available to support spiritual needs, social workers help with emotional concerns, dietitians propose food plans to soothe nausea or boost suppressed appetites, patient advocates address for billing or financial concerns, and integrative medicine eases symptoms. “We can recommend local support groups or websites where you can find accurate information about your breast cancer diagnosis or talk to someone who has gone through breast cancer treatment.”
“Treating breast cancer is complex, a step-by-step process,” said Terveen. “We’re humbled that our patients put their complete trust in us, and we work diligently to deliver not only great care, but hope as well.”