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Program helps cancer survivors

A new program available through the Cancer Center at Presbyterian offers follow-up support to survivors of breast cancer.

The Survivorship Care program helps patients understand the details of the medical care they had, the implications for their future health and the physical, emotional and social after-effects they will likely experience when they complete their course of treatment.

Dava Gerard, administrator of the cancer service line at Presbyterian said depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, a shift in family dynamics and the fear of a reoccurrence are common after-effects. She said patients who undergo an array of treatment from surgeons, oncologists and radiologists are often left confused about the details and unprepared to resume their lives.

“You can feel very lost when it’s all over,” said Janet Cross, a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Cross had her first bout of cancer 13 years ago and a reoccurrence within the last two years. When she heard about the Survivorship program she promptly requested an appointment with Rhonda Sinclair the nurse practitioner Presbyterian hired this year to lead it.

Since June, Sinclair has been available to meet with patients at Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital Physician Office Building at 8300 Constitution Ave NE and at the Presbyterian Medical Group facility at 4100 High Resort Blvd. SE in Rio Rancho.

Sinclair prepares a treatment summary and a care plan for each patient using information about the patient’s medical history from a database established by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control that tracks cancers and tumors.

The database contains details of a patient’s providers, how much radiation they received and what medications they were given. Sinclair explains the likely side effects and the risk factors for the future.

She may refer the patient for follow-up care to other health care professionals such as a physical therapist, nutritionist, social worker or chaplain.

Cross said working with Sinclair has given her a level of comfort that she didn’t have after she completed treatment for her first cancer.

Presbyterian began developing the program several years ago based on recommendations contained in a report that focused awareness on the need for follow-up care for cancer survivors put out by the by the Institute of Medicine, a non-governmental group of experts, Gerard said.

She said similar programs have sprung up around the country. Most, like the Presbyterian program, focus on breast cancer survivors because that is the largest population, Gerard said.

The program is open to cancer survivors who have had treatment at facilities outside the Presbyterian Healthcare Services system. Individuals will have to check with their insurance to see if the services are covered, Gerard said.