Between getting married and moving to a new area, Elizabeth Paolucci did not have a mammogram for a few years. When she finally did, the 55-year-old woman expected a routine outcome.
“When they called to tell me they found something, it was a complete surprise,” Elizabeth says. “There is no history of breast cancer in our family.”
But she was lucky, Elizabeth now says, in more ways than one.
She had her mammogram at Mercy Suburban’s Cancer Center, and doctors caught her breast cancer in the earliest stages. Her treatment — surgery and radiation — was “nothing” compared to what she saw other women with more advanced cancers going through, she recalls. And she believes her care at Mercy Cancer Center changed her life.
“Everyone at Mercy became like family to me,” she says. “All the little things they did for me … here’s just one example: I have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, so some of the positions I had to lie in for radiation treatment were hard for me. But they found a way to make me comfortable.”
Personalized treatment for each patient
Making breast cancer treatment a customized experience is a hallmark of care at Mercy Cancer Center. Hongyan Liang, MD, PhD, hematology and oncology specialist at Mercy Suburban, describes a test called Oncotype DX® that helps doctors plan individualized treatment for breast cancer patients.
“Molecular markers can give a recurrence score and help to guide decisions about treatment,” says Dr. Liang. “We run this test on newly diagnosed patients if they meet the criteria. It really is a new era of personalized medicine.”
Breast cancer patients also receive the personal touch through the Mercy Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary conference approach. All specialists — breast surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist — as well as a specially trained nurse navigator and a social worker, meet to discuss treatment options for newly diagnosed patients at Mercy Suburban. The expertise they bring to the table individually and collectively means that each and every patient at Mercy receives customized care that will bring the best results.
As part of the multi-disciplinary approach, the specialists each meet with the patient and offer their perspective. This happens at a single appointment, for patient convenience.
“This approach is not just for complicated cases, but for every case,” explains Kristine Widders, MD, breast surgeon. “Everything about cancer treatment is becoming more personalized. I think our multidisciplinary approach is just good care. It’s less confusing for the patient, and lets us lay out recommended options. And it results in better treatment overall.”
Feeling like Family
As a Mercy patient, Elizabeth appreciated feeling cared for every step of the way at Mercy Cancer Center. She never felt alone.
“I can’t say enough about how respectful and supportive everyone was,” Elizabeth says. “I did a lot of crying, and they did a lot of hugging. It was a frightening time for me, but they made the experience the best it could be.”
She learned valuable lessons for living too, she says, including how to eat healthier. As a result, she lost weight and gained energy.
“My husband and in-laws are eating better, too, because of what I’ve learned,” Elizabeth says. “Even my two little dogs are healthier.”
Here For You. For more information on Mercy Cancer Center or for a referral to an oncologist, visit mercyhealth.org or call 1.877.GO MERCY.