A woman is devastated to find out she has breast cancer. But, within 48 hours of her diagnosis, she can be seen by her own breast care team at Parkview.
“She comes to our breast center and the entire team is here waiting to help her,” says breast surgeon Dr. Linda Han, Parkview Physicians Group – Oncology. “I will go in the exam room to meet with her and explain the diagnosis as well as a broad plan for treatment. I share my information with medical oncologist Dr. Ellen Szwed, Parkview Physicians Group – Oncology, who then goes into the room to see the patient and focuses on the oncology aspect of her case. The patient is also seen by one of our nurse navigators who will go over any type of social support resources she will need. There’s also a breast center nurse who will serve as another point-of-contact for the patient should she have any questions.”
The Parkview Cancer Institute implemented the concept of a breast care team in January, but planning for such an advanced and organized system started long before that.
“This is the model that is being used in academic centers and large medical facilities around the country,” says Dr. Szwed. “There is no other place in Indiana where you can receive this kind of care with the exception of the IU medical school in Indianapolis. It requires a certain level of resources and commitment from the Parkview Health system because it is focused on patient care and not profit. The diagnosis of cancer is very overwhelming and this approach, where we’re all working together in one location, decreases the anxiety for that patient.”
Dr. Szwed says every patient is also given a distress tool in which she rates her level of anxiety on a scale of one to ten.
“If we have someone at a high level of distress, we immediately contact a social worker to be here and meet with the patient and her family to intervene and offer support.”
“One in 11 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and a woman dies from breast cancer every three minutes. That’s how common breast cancer is,” says Dr. Han. “Typically, it is the number-one cancer that is diagnosed in women and it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths behind lung cancer.”
“Every patient who is diagnosed with breast cancer is presented at our multidisciplinary breast tumor board in which representatives of the entire breast cancer care team are there: myself, Dr. Szwed, our nurse navigator, social workers, radiational oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a survivorship plan member,” says Dr. Han. “So, we have the entire continuum of care in which each case is reviewed and a consensus of the treatment developed and then that treatment plan is shared with the patient and her referring physician.”
The program is set up to take women through the entire course of breast cancer, everything from breast screenings and prevention to diagnosis and treatment to survivorship.
After her treatment is complete, the patient transitions to the survivorship clinic, which is run by an advanced care provider. There, patients are guided through steps to live well and healthy to prevent other cancers or secondary breast cancer.
“We also have the only certified genetics counselor in Fort Wayne to work with women who are identified as being at high-risk for breast cancer at their screenings,” says nurse practitioner Stefani Davis. “And I think it’s important to point out that Dr. Han and Dr. Szwed are extremely generous with their time with patients. On average, they spend an hour to 90 minutes with each woman, but they will give her all the time she needs during her appointment.”
Everyone on the care team acknowledges that there are still a lot of unknowns with breast cancer, but research is ongoing and in many cases, showing promising and exciting results for patients.
“Our ladies have been very pleased to meet with our team through this multidisciplinary approach,” says Dr. Szwed. “It’s made a huge difference for patients and it’s helping them to take control and fight and beat cancer.”
Address: 11143 Parkview Plaza Drive Fort Wayne, Indiana 46845
Phone: (260) 266-9100
Products & Services: The Parkview Cancer Institute is a combination of forward-thinking, passionate care. We place patients and families first — focusing on their experiences and providing quality outcomes. Our goal is to provide excellent service for patients and their families throughout their cancer journey: prevention, screening, education, diagnosis, staging, treatment, follow-up and survivorship.