Hospital opens breast care center

By Megan R. Harrell


With Breast Cancer Awareness month in full swing, community members had the opportunity to meet the breast care team at Sycamore Shoals Hospital Thursday morning. The newly formed team of surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, and plastic surgeons were available to the public during an open house for the new Women's Diagnostic Center.
   Hospital officials began taking steps toward opening the breast cancer treatment center only six months ago; however, a comprehensive breast care center has been a goal at Sycamore Shoals for several years. The center brings together a team of health care professionals that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
   Changes at the hospital are subtle, but health care providers believe they will impact patients positively. "The changes are not going to be apparent from the outside. People are not going to drive by and see a new breast center from the outside, but on the inside there have been some major changes in how we do things," said David Hecht M.D., General Surgery.
   Hecht believes a new multidisciplinary approach to treatment, better timing, and more personalized care are the most significant impacts of the Women's Diagnostic Center. Standardized protocols have been adopted that are aimed at making treatment more efficient and more patient friendly.
   Doctors expect to be able to offer patient results faster than before, and additional testing or treatment will be carried out more efficiently by the team of specialists. Patients will now be able to access all aspects of treatment at one facility.
   "The main benefit of the center is in making the detection of breast cancer. Once the patient is diagnosed the group and the protocols we have set up will carry them through the system much more smoothly," Glenda Ramsey M.D., Director of Radiology at Sycamore Shoals said. "The protocols are patient focused. There is an emphasis on patient education, with the development of a new team member, and a patient liaison."
   The patient liaison is one of the most significant aspects of the new center. The liaison will assist patients throughout the entire treatment process. The position was created in order to increase patient education and awareness and to prevent patients from mix-ups while engaged in the treatment system.
   The liaison will oversee all patient paperwork and will work with them from the first to the final stages of treatment.
   A patient liaison has not been hired by the hospital yet, but officials have stated they are actively looking for the right person for the position. Ramsey stated Sycamore Shoals' small size has made it possible to devote an entire position just for patient services.
   "Previously, I think the treatment system was almost an enemy of the patient or, at least, it was not very patient friendly," ETSU Hematologist and Oncologist, Stephen Smith said.
   Smith will be joining the breast cancer team at Sycamore Shoals once a week for consultations. Administrators have an ultimate goal of making out-patient chemotherapy available at the hospital.
   Authorities believe the treatment available to breast cancer patients at the Women's Diagnostic Center is comparable to that at other local health care facilities. Patients will be seen by the same team of radiation oncologists that are at the MedCenter, and the certification is the same.
   "Although we do not have the multi-million dollars worth of equipment over here, we still have a very strong tie with the cancer center over at the Johnson City Medical Center and with ETSU Radiation Oncology in order to have that full multidisciplinary approach," C.E.O. Sycamore Shoals, Scott Williams said.