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Partnering in Breast Cancer Care: October 15, 2013

Life changed overnight for Norma Canales.

“I went to my doctor and I told him I had a lump on my breast, so he sent me to get a mammogram and that’s when they told me I had breast cancer,” says Canales.

A mother, grandmother, great-grandmother now - Canales had a busy life. But everything faded in comparison when she learned she had cancer.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, I had no idea where to go. So they told me to come here and that’s when I met Tammy,” says Canales.

“The breast home navigator meets with the patient initially and does education about her diagnosis and then navigates them through the whole health system. We expedite appointments. If the patient is needing resources, we help them find the resources,” says Tammy Zinn, breast health navigator with Lee Memorial Health System.

Cancer requires complex care involving several medical specialties. Until recently the process was fragmented, with patients left to manage their own treatment. It put added stress on people who were already stressed out.

“A woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. She would go see a breast surgeon, two to three weeks later she would go see a medical oncologist and then a radiation oncologist. And then her plan was put into action. By doing the multidisciplinary breast clinics we bring all the specialists, all to the patient at the same visit,” says Zinn.

So when Canales got her diagnosis, she was ushered into the program. Doctors came to her, evaluated her case as a team, then presented her with a plan on the very same day.

“We met here in the clinic center. They told me everything they were going to do, what I was going to go through. So I met each one and I talked to them and they were awesome,” says Canales.

“The feedback that we get from patients is wonderful. The education they receive here - Tte team approach releases anxiety, stress that the patients and the family has,” says Zinn.

It comes down to taking an impersonal disease, and making it personal.