Q: You’re working with breast cancer patients who are navigating unfamiliar territory. What’s the most important piece of information or advice that you can give them?
A: I want patients to know that asking questions and learning as much as they can about what they’re facing is so important. We have amazing resources here at Mount Nittany Medical Center, from the staff to the providers, from the equipment and technology, to the Lady Lions Basketball Cancer Resource Center, where patients can browse books or use the computers as a tool to help become better educated. Patients should also remember that they’re never alone during this journey. Patients can call me at any time, and my services are absolutely free.
Q: What are some of challenges facing patients with a breast cancer diagnosis, not just medically, but in terms of the impact on their day-to-day life?
A: Navigation, in our case, means help getting around any barriers to a patient’s care. Barriers can be any number of things; they’re different for every person. What we commonly see as a barrier is transportation. Some patients require daily treatment that can go on for an extended period of time. Some patients are traveling many miles to our facility, and some patients do not drive. Both of these scenarios can make transportation a barrier, and it’s my job to help navigate through that. Another barrier to care is financial concerns. I help navigate the barrier of financial concerns by connecting patients to resources that can help, as the patient may encounter increased expenses such as co-pays, deductibles or added gas costs.
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Q: Your breast cancer support group meets on the first Monday of every month and is open to patients, family and friends. What can newcomers expect to encounter if they attend a meeting, or what can family and friends do to help support a patient dealing with breast cancer?
A: When a friend or family member is diagnosed with any type of cancer, there are a lot of different ways you can be supportive. Be available to listen. Most of the time, newly diagnosed patients are plagued with worry. Lending an ear or simply spending time together can help ease the burden.
Making sure your family member or friend is connected with a breast health navigator is a great way you can help, too. You can make the referral for them, or learn who your local navigator is and make sure your friend or family member has their contact information.
In addition, there are practical ways you can help, too, whether it’s helping to schedule meal deliveries or offering to help drive the patient to medical appointments.
Lastly, encourage the patient to try a breast cancer support group, where he or she will be among people who are currently going through, or have gone through, a similar experience. At Mount Nittany Medical Center, our breast cancer support group meetings are very casual, and individuals can talk and participate as much or as little as they’d like. While we certainly see individuals who have been recently diagnosed, we also have a number of survivors who continue to attend. Individuals can come each month, or only as often as they wish. We keep the meetings upbeat, I provide a meal for the attendees, and I try to schedule guest speakers a few times each year. A breast cancer support group can really be a positive and worthwhile experience for those battling breast cancer.