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  • Lisa Jevens

Breast Care Team Encircles Patients with Expert Help From Day One

After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, patients can feel like they’ve embarked on an unplanned journey through a strange land, where they don’t speak the language and don’t know which way to turn. Their very survival depends on how well they navigate that landscape.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist understands how important it is to have an experienced team to guide patients through this unfamiliar terrain. As part of the region’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Breast Care Center’s oncology team offers an enhanced approach to comprehensive cancer care. Their experienced staff know what it takes to become a cancer survivor and that world-class medical treatments are only part of the story.

The Breast Care Center takes a proactive, personalized approach that puts the patient at the center of their cancer care team. This elevated approach to care is designed to quickly schedule a new patient to see their care team in one visit, resulting in a plan of care along with navigation resources to guide and support patients through every step of their breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, care and survivorship.

An enhanced, patient-centric model of care grew out of the need for greater navigation of the modern medical system and its many support services, which correlates with better outcomes. While it’s true that breast cancer treatment is more sophisticated and successful than it used to be, accessing it can still be challenging. Because there are so many more options, patients have to make more decisions. Modern care is more comprehensive, but this means a patient might have dozens of appointments with multiple providers over months or even years on end. Having one point of contact who "knows how to navigate and guide" can literally be a lifesaver.

At Atrium Health Wake Forest’s Breast Care Center, the very day a patient is referred or calls for their first appointment at the Breast Care Center, they are assigned an Oncology Nurse Navigator who will serve as the patient’s point of contact for coordination of care. Nurse navigators are experts at coordinating appointments, identifying patient support resources and communicating with patients and connecting with their care team. They do not give medical advice, but rather, ensure the patient is well informed and has all their questions answered.

Nurse navigators start by educating patients and their families on the specific cancer diagnosis they have received. The nurse navigators ensure that scheduling appointments, medical records collection and financial guidance resources are provided to every new patient. These nurse navigators make sure patients have everything they need to get to appointments, such as support services for childcare or eldercare. Along the way, they provide answers regarding medications, symptoms and anything else that may arise. Their unwavering support follows the patient into survivorship, equipped with a new roadmap and resources for the next stage of their journey.

Doctors and other cancer care providers love the enhanced patient-centered approach because it streamlines caregiving for them, too. The first new patient visit is a multidisciplinary appointment, which means the providers that will be part of the patient’s care team will meet the patient on the same day. This enables providers to quickly cross-communicate and collaborate about each patient’s needs and treatment plan. The new cancer contact line provides physicians single, direct access for referring all cancer disease types.

Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer or had a loved one who has, knows it touches every part of life. The Breast Care Center’s elevated approach offers care that encircles each patient with cancer expertise, the latest treatment options, the support and guidance to successfully traverse the unfamiliar territory of breast cancer and emerge a survivor.

Originally published in the Greensboro News & Record on October 1, 2021.

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