By David Glick
The days and weeks following the end of breast cancer treatment can stretch into years — a lifetime of vacations, family reunions, work routines and new experiences. Despite the passage of time, though, one lingering question often remains in the minds of survivors.
Will I be okay?
|Nurse practitioner Helene Zonder, left, meets with patient Lori Baughman in the breast cancer survivorship clinic. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
Now City of Hope breast cancer survivors can tackle that question with confidence thanks to a team of oncologists, nurse practitioners and other professionals at City of Hope’s new Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic.
The clinic is the second at City of Hope for survivors of adult cancers; a clinic for prostate cancer survivors opened in 2008. Patients can turn to these clinics within the Center for Cancer Survivorship to have their questions answered, get their fears allayed and receive roadmaps to a healthy life.
Opened to patients in July, the Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic is designed to provide specialized follow-up care for breast cancer patients focused on their unique health needs in a clinical research setting. The program aims to keep each survivor as healthy as possible, preventing problems such as osteoporosis, weight gain and other issues common after breast cancer treatment, or catching problems early, when they are most easily treated.
The clinic also provides a platform for research on the long-term effects of breast cancer treatment, and each patient is invited to participate in the clinic’s specialized research program. The clinic is a cooperative effort between the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program and the Women’s Cancers Program.
“Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer are overwhelmed with new information and cannot be expected to remember all of the complications of their treatment,” said Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program and vice chair and professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research. “In the survivorship clinic, we review the treatment they received, the possible complications associated with that treatment and ways of managing side effects.”
Patients participating in the Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic receive these services:
- Monitoring for long-term effects of breast cancer treatment;
- Referral for management of identified problems if needed; and
- A survivorship care plan that includes personalized record of the details of cancer treatment, guidelines for continued monitoring, recommendations for preventive care and information about resources and services.
To seek ongoing care through the Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic, women must have had a diagnosis of breast cancer and received at least part of their treatment at City of Hope. Women must have no history of metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread beyond the local breast area or lymph nodes) and no history of breast cancer recurrence.
Patients are enthusiastic about the services. “I appreciate the extra care and the added time the clinic provides to address all of my concerns and answer my questions,” said patient Lori Baughman, who ended her treatment in 2009.
Directed by Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., the Ruth Zeigler Chair in Population Sciences, the clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team that includes Mortimer, Wendy Landier, Ph.D., R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., clinical director, Helene Zonder, R.N., M.S.N., F.N.P., nurse practitioner, and Meghan Zomorodi, clinical research assistant.
“The Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic is a comprehensive approach to reduce the burden of morbidity experienced by our cancer survivors, at the same time advancing the science of survivorship so that our future cancer survivors can benefit from the lessons learned in these clinics,” Bhatia said.
The Center for Cancer Survivorship was established at City of Hope in 2006 as part of the Department of Population Sciences. The center provides specialized follow-up care and patient education in a clinical research setting. It grew out of programs initially aimed at survivors of pediatric cancers. For more information, call 626-471-7341 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.