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Navigating your cancer journey

Written by Community Health Network on 7/3/2014 6:00:00 AM

A cancer diagnosis can be extremely emotional, and making sense of health information can also be overwhelming. That is why Community has a dedicated cancer care team and oncology nurse navigators to help cancer patients on their journey.

Sharon Bronnenberg, breast health navigator We sat down with breast health navigator, Sharon Bronnenberg, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, to talk about the role an oncology navigator plays in a cancer treatment.

What does a oncology nurse navigator do?
I act as a guide, resource, advocate, educator and liaison for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their family. As an oncology navigator with a focus on breast health, my goal is to get answers to all of their questions so that we allay their fears.

I am a consistent caregiver throughout the cancer journey, coordinating appointments and schedules, and providing resources and information. But the most important thing I do is provide support and hope.

What should a cancer patient expect the first time they meet you?
When I meet with a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient I make sure they know their plan of care, as well as the other doctors that they will be seeing. 

I also let them know that they will be very busy when they begin treatment, but that as a breast navigator I will try hard to go to all of their appointments with them. From the very first appointment, I educate and reassure the patient by taking notes and answering questions.

Continuity of care is vital for us in order to make the patient feel comfortable and earn their trust. We all have the same goal: To do everything possible to have the best possible outcome for the patient. continue reading ...

Stacy's story: Part II

Written by Community Health Network on 6/17/2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the second post in a four-part blog series. Stacy Costa is a breast cancer survivor who was treated at Community Regional Cancer Care Center. One year into survivorship, she credits Dr. Robert Goulet and her breast cancer team for her survival.

Breast cancer care takes a full team of support at Community

Community Cancer Care provides breast health navigators to patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast health navigators are available to answer questions concerning breast health, provide education and support, coordinate care as needed, and prepare breast cancer patients for survivors

“I had three nurse navigators, Natalie, Sharlee and Tracy,” said Costa. “I think I’ll be seeing Dr. Goulet, Dr. Walling and the wonderful ladies of my breast care team on and off for the rest of my life.”

Breast health navigators provide continuity for patients and their families throughout their healthcare experience, during what can be a very stressful time in a woman’s life.

“Natalie calmed me down when I first learned of my diagnosis and had so many decisions to make,” said Costa. “I had a lot of questions and concerns. She tackled each one and we got answers together. It didn’t matter how crazy the question was, she delivered the answers in ways that I could manage them.”

Breast health navigators also provide assistance with appointments, surgery preparations and at treatments. continue reading ...

Cancer survivor golfs for a cure

Written by Community Health Network on 6/3/2014 6:00:00 AM

Courtney Larson and husband at inaugural golf outing

Courtney Larson was performing a breast self-exam when she discovered a suspicious lump. Concerned, she followed up with her physician. A diagnostic mammogram was performed and revealed Larson had breast cancer.

"I went in on for my mammogram on a Thursday and was diagnosed with cancer that same day," said Larson.

Within a day of her diagnosis Larson had a dedicated cancer care team ready to help her fight her cancer.

"Following my diagnosis Dr. Erin Zusan, breast surgeon at Community Health Network, arranged a family meeting," said Larson. "My husband and family members were able to ask all of their questions up front and be on the same page prior to the start of my treatment. Dr. Zusan even left her own family during that time to come and comfort me in my time of need. That was the start of a great relationship."

By the time Larson left that first meeting she had all appointments scheduled and a comprehensive treatment plan outlined.

"I didn't have to make a single phone call to set up an appointment or worry about communicating between each of my doctors," said Larson. "Community took care of all of that. There was a clear plan of attack, and that was a huge relief."

Not only did Courtney have the support of Dr. Zusan, but a nurse navigator who accompanied her to every appointment to take notes, answer questions and provide advice.

"The first time I met Sharon (my nurse navigator) she walked into the room and said to me, 'We're going to be sisters and I'm going to get you through this'," said Larson. 

And Larson got through it. continue reading ...

Cancer answers: What is melanoma?

Written by Community Health Network on 5/5/2014 7:00:00 AM

 Melanoma begins in the cells that produce pigment (melanocytes), which is why melanomas are often a multi-colored mix of tan, brown, black or blue. The pigment cells help protect the deeper layers of your skin from the sun.

When UV rays from natural (sun) or artificial (tanning beds) sources damage the DNA in skin, this can affect genes that control cell division and growth. When these genes don't work properly, melanoma may form.

Although less common than other skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer, potentially causing death. However, almost 100 percent of melanomas - if found early - can be treated successfully. In later stages, melanoma can spread to vital organs, making treatment difficult, so it is essential to have any suspicious skin moles or sores evaluated by a doctor right away.

Signs and symptoms

  • Spots that look like a bruise 
  • Sores that don't heal 
  • Pigment spreading into surrounding skin 
  • Itching, tenderness or pain 
  • Oozing, bleeding or nodules on the surface of a mole 
  • Moles that just "look different" from others 
Diagnosis of melanoma involves going to your doctor for a biopsy of the affected skin. If melanoma is detected, surgery is often performed to remove the cancerous areas.

Have a question about skin cancer? 
Ask a Community cancer expert online.

Taking cancer care in a whole new direction

Written by Community Health Network on 4/16/2014 3:30:00 PM

Community Cancer Center South will open to the public tomorrow! Located on the Community Hospital South campus this facility is approaching cancer care in new ways.

At our new cancer center we have combined a multidisciplinary team of medical experts with state-of-the-art technology in a healing environment – all under one roof. Our coordinated approach to care enables patients to see all their care providers at one place, saving time and reducing the need for multiple appointments. Patients are supported by a team that includes an oncology social worker, oncology dietitian, financial counselors and dedicated patient navigators.

Executive Director at Community Cancer Center South, Regina Ward, and Community Health Network CEO, Bryan Mills, talk about the unique approach our facility takes to cancer care.

Visit our website for more information about Community Cancer Center South.

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Appointments available!

To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!

Meet our nurse navigators

When it comes to your fight against cancer, they've got your back. Our nurse navigators act as a guide, resource, advocate and educator for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. Learn more here.