Being diagnosed with breast cancer is the start of a journey that no one ever hopes to have to take. From understanding the initial diagnosis through surgery and treatment, and then on to long-term recovery, there are many questions to consider every step of the way.
Fortunately, breast cancer patients don’t have to know how to ask and answer those questions or face that journey alone. At Evansville Surgical Associates, our three breast surgery navigators—Clara Poirot, Monika Osbourne, and Anne Belle—personally stand alongside each breast cancer patient from the time of being diagnosed through each step of the treatment process.
Tara Foncannon, our Director of Clinical Operations & Strategic Initiatives, sat down for a Q&A about how Clara, Monika, and Anne help breast cancer patients:
Q: What is a “breast surgery navigator” and why is it important to have one?
A: When cancer patients know that there’s an advocate, or “navigator,” by their side ready to help as they go through the treatment process then they are understandably more relieved.
Not a lot of people realize that they will have an advocate assigned specifically to be a support for them as they go through breast cancer surgery and treatment. It’s easy to forget that there are staff members ready to support and care for them just as much as the surgeons and oncology nurses, for example. Our navigators are always available to answer any questions about surgery, consultations, mammograms, financial concerns, and long term follow-ups.
Q: What does a “navigator” do after a breast cancer patient is diagnosed?
A: When patients are diagnosed with breast cancer and receive an appointment with our office, they are assigned a breast navigator, either Clara, Monika, or Anne. Their breast surgery navigator helps them understand what to expect and stays with them during that first visit with the surgeon.
Together with the surgeon, the breast surgery navigator and the patient then review all diagnostic imaging and any testing that has been completed, and thoroughly discuss what the next steps for surgery will look like.
Q: How does the navigator help before surgery, or between appointments?
A: Some patients need an MRI after their first visit with the breast surgeon, and others are advised to have genetic testing. If that’s the case, their navigator will set up any additional testing or screening and make all appointments that are recommended. The navigator will then follow up on any results from those tests or screenings and make sure the patient understands why they’re necessary and what they mean.
Whether additional tests are needed before surgery or not, the navigator makes sure that the patient is ready for the next step when it comes to their surgical procedure. For all patients, that’s knowing the exact type, time, and date of the surgery and what to expect before, during, or after the procedure, whether it’s a lumpectomy or mastectomy. For other patients, that means understanding why and when they need to come back for a pre-op visit if that’s what’s recommended.
The navigator will also make arrangements to ensure that the patient is set up for the recommended radiation or chemo treatment plan by coordinating with the oncology center, where they will be supporting the patient once their treatment process begins.
Tara Foncannon summarizes, “Basically, as navigators, Clara, Monika, and Anne arrange everything to make sure the patient is getting all the care they need with the different moving pieces and treatments that are specific to them along their journey with breast cancer surgery and treatment.”
She adds, “We’re always here to answer any additional questions if a patient thinks about anything at all and they need to call. Patients are also followed throughout their entire treatment plan for an average of five years post-op, and our team will remain a resource for them whenever they need us.”
Breast Cancer Expertise
The surgeons and specially-trained staff at Evansville Surgical Associates treat all aspects of breast cancers as well as benign breast conditions at both the Deaconess Midtown and St. Vincent-Evansville Breast Centers. Our breast physicians include Dr. Joshua M. Aaron, Dr. Mallory S. Bray, Dr. Matthew S. Field, Dr. Kristi K. Peck, Dr. Brian W. Schymik and Dr. W. Matthew Vassy.
With the most advanced breast health techniques and treatments in digital mammography, diagnostic ultrasound, breast MRIs, and stereotactic and ultrasound guided needle biopsy capabilities, our dedicated breast surgeons and breast navigators work closely with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and plastic surgeons to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care.
Established in 1969, Evansville Surgical Associates celebrates 50 years of providing leading-edge comprehensive and compassionate surgical care. Learn more about our physicians and our practices by visiting our website, or by calling us at 812.424.8231 or 800.264.8231.