The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.
When it comes to cancer care, more is more, and no one knows this better than Toni Green-Cheatwood, Director of Breast Oncology at Penrose Cancer Center.
“There are so many factors to consider after both receiving and giving a breast cancer diagnosis,” she said. “Ultimately, we work to ensure all our patients and staff have the tools they need to move confidently into treatment and recovery, and a multi-disciplinary approach is a great way to do that.”
Penrose Cancer Center implemented a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer treatment two-and-a-half years ago. “This means we get the oncologist and surgeon in the same room with the patient for a comprehensive appointment,” Green-Cheatwood said. Though patients often request to be seen immediately after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, Green-Cheatwood and her team encourage them to take two or three days to process the diagnosis and give the physicians time to coordinate schedules and an initial treatment plan. “This bit of extra time on the front end actually speeds up treatment,” she said. “It allows us to gather all the patient’s information and ensure there are no gaps in communication, and patients don’t have to sit through three or four appointments over several weeks. This typically makes it easier for their families to be with them during the appointment, especially if they need to take off work or fly in from out of town.”
Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas. Though it is a community hospital, the multi-disciplinary approach puts it on par with national cancer hospitals like MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Green-Cheatwood has also witnessed similar methods at a Mayo Clinic. “Now, we have the expertise to compete with cancer centers nationally and care for our region well,” she said. In addition to obvious physical benefits, bringing several cancer treatment disciplines together has psychological benefits. “It’s more satisfying for patients to meet with multiple people who can provide them all the answers they need in one sitting. They often leave quite relieved, I think because they can tell we are that much more confident in the plan.”
Green-Cheatwood anticipates the multi-disciplinary approach will only continue to improve breast cancer treatment at Penrose Cancer Center. “We are lucky to have excellent providers who help make it happen,” she said. “I hope we can continue educating patients on the benefits of investing time up front to pay off in a more comprehensive treatment plan so they can heal and get back to their lives.”