Oct. 10--GREENSBORO -- The newest treatment option for breast cancer at Cone
Health isn't centered around drugs or radiation. It's a methodology that brings
all the specialists together at one time and place, both to consult on the
treatment plan and to communicate that plan to the patient.
It's called the Breast Multidisciplinary Clinic, and it's held every Wednesday
at the Alight Breast Cancer Center at Cone Health Cancer Center. Patients who
choose this care are served by a team that includes a surgeon, medical
oncologist, radiation oncologist, nurse navigator, physical therapist, and a
"It's treating the whole person," says Tami Knutson, manager of the Breast
The team meets to go over each patient's file to discuss treatment options and
come up with a collaborative care plan. When a patient comes in, she may spend
as long as 3 to 5 hours seeing each physician and consulting with the team on
treatment and care.
While that might seem like a long time, Knutson said, they get through all their
appointments in one afternoon, instead of scheduling them separately.
"When they leave, most of them have a pretty comprehensive care plan, including
their diagnosis, clinical stage, the overall treatment regimen and the next
step," Knutson said. "They have everything on one page."
Rita DeBusk, 64, a current patient, said the first visit was overwhelming,
because you meet with so many people over the course of four hours.
"(I) felt like I should have had questions, but I was just in such a numb
state," DeBusk said. "After I started to formulate the questions, I called the
The nurse navigator is like an air traffic controller, making sure information
is relayed to each member of the care team and helping connect the patient to
A social worker, dietician and psychologist are on site, as well as volunteers
who have had the same experience.
"The nurse navigator is just a precious person," DeBusk said. "It seems like I
talk to Dawn (Stuart) two or three or times a week -- everything from insurance
questions to 'I'm going to have a meltdown in a couple of minutes.' It's a lot
DeBusk said the clinic is a tremendous resource for breast cancer patients
because it brings all the needed resources together in one place.
"You're so anxious and your mind is such a muck, you can barely deal with
yourself, much less think about you've got to see a surgeon and medical
oncologist and radiation oncologist," DeBusk said. "A person who hasn't been
through it, you don't know all the resources you're going to need. It's great to
have somebody get that all together for you."
Patients diagnosed with breast cancer at Cone's two breast centers are offered
the opportunity to be seen at the multidisciplinary clinic, which has been
operating since January 2012. It's open to any breast cancer patient, subject to
availability. Some patients come from as far away as Virginia to take advantage
of the clinic.
"Traditionally, we diagnose about 600 patients per year (at Cone's two breast
centers)," Knutson said. "We saw 247 at the clinic last year, but it was still
new and people were just finding out about it. This year, we're closer to 400
patients. Most of newly diagnosed patients go this route."
Knutson thinks it's a concept that could be used elsewhere in the cancer center,
as well as other disciplines.
"We feel very good about the care we give," Knutson said.
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