The world of cancer is a world of change, maybe not the collective diseases, but the way health professionals approach it. The move is towards patient centered care.
“It’s an era of individualized therapy. One treatment may be suitable for you, while it may not be for another person,” says Dr. Rie Aihara, surgical oncologist with the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
The Regional Cancer Center relies on a multidisciplinary approach. One usually not found outside of academic medical centers. It assembles teams of specialists to evaluate patients together.
“And the beauty of that is all of us can get together, in one setting, not just the treating specialist but also the radiologist, the pathologist, the nurse health navigators, genetic counselors. So every ancillary service this building has to offer can meet in one place, discuss the patient all in one setting, view the same pathology slides, the radiology, and then come up with a conclusion or a recommendation at the end of that session,” says Dr. Aihara.
Patients then meet with each care provider on the same day.
“The feedback that we get from patients is wonderful,” says Tammy Zinn, RN, with Lee Memorial Health System.
Tammy Zinn is a nurse navigator- she troubleshoots problems that may affect a patient’s health or wellbeing, from working through financial hardships to preparing for a mastectomy.
“The breast health navigator meets with the patient initially and does education about her diagnosis and then navigates them through the whole health system,” says Zinn.
Studies show this is truly good medicine. Cancer patients with larger support groups handle the process better. The team approach is better at personalizing treatment and also equalizes access to quality care.
“Fifty to sixty years ago, everybody with a diagnosis of cancer had surgery. It was a sort of kitchen sink therapy with chemotherapy. But now that they have so many options, whether it be a surgical option, lumpectomy vs. mastectomy, choices in radiation, individualized therapy meaning whether woman’s tumors are responsive to hormones or not. All of these factor into what the treatment is going to be,” says Dr. Aihara.
Being patient centered puts a team of professionals to work on a single purpose. “I always tell our patients, it’s teamwork,” says Dr. Aihara.