A diagnosis of breast cancer is already a frightening moment for patients and their families, but the idea of navigating through an intense and sometimes tiring care process can seem even more daunting when you're carrying the burden of such a serious diagnosis.
Fortunately, Main Line Health's dedicated Breast Care Coordinators and Nurse Navigators are there to help. Whether it's helping you to understand your team of medical professionals or offering support to patients and their families and friends, their role is to be there for you on your journey towards restored health.
Annette Pierdomenico, RNC-OB, MSN, is a Nurse Navigator and Breast Care Coordinator at Riddle Hospital. Read on for an explanation of her role in the healing process, and what kinds of services Breast Care Coordinators can offer patients.
Can you define the role of a Breast Care Coordinator?
The role of the Breast Care Coordinator is an evolving model of care. It encompasses the holistic needs of the patient along the continuum of care. Our goal is to remove barriers for the patient and ensure access to care. We provide support from initial diagnosis through treatments and into follow up care with scheduling of appointments, educational resources, and supportive services. Patients are so grateful for the streamlined care and timeliness of appointments.
As a Breast Care Coordinator, are you limited to helping breast cancer patients, or do you provide support for any breast patient?
Although most of my time is spent with patients who are having breast biopsies and who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, I am a resource for patients who may be at risk for developing breast cancer. I welcome the opportunities to provide education to the community through seminars and health fairs, about the importance of annual screenings and the services we provide here at The Comprehensive Breast Center at Riddle Hospital.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I enjoy meeting patients and their families. My best days are when patients stop in or send a letter telling me how well they are doing. It is very gratifying to know that our multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, and technologists can make such a positive difference for a patient and their family.
Is this a role that is specific to Riddle Hospital, or do other hospitals have similar positions?
As a system, Main Line Health has made a wonderful commitment to the communities we serve by having nationally accredited Comprehensive Breast Centers at each of their acute care hospitals, along with breast care coordinators/nurse navigators at each facility.
What kind of support services do you offer for patients?
As a comprehensive breast center, we are able to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to each patient. That means we have surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, reconstructive surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologist, nutritional support, physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical psychology, survivor’s network and support groups for patients and their families, all right here on our campus.
Do you also provide support to the families of patients? If so, what kind?
We provide support to family members as well through opportunities for counseling with genetics, nutrition, psychology, surgery class and various other resources supported by the American Cancer Society.
For women who have a history of breast cancer in their family, what are some steps they can take to prevent the cycle from continuing with them?
The best step in reducing your risk of developing breast cancer is education-know what risk factors are modifiable and what testing venues are available. We urge our patients to have an open dialogue with their physicians and the technicians here in our center. If there is a family history of breast cancer, we would recommend the patient have annual screenings, clinical breast exams, lifetime risk assessment calculation and talk to a genetic counselor regarding options for prudent care, and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
What can family and friends of breast cancer patients do to offer their support?
Family and friends can offer support to patients just by simply listening. The more active roles can include providing transportation, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and education about the disease process and treatments. This journey can be overwhelming but with the support of all the members of our breast center, we can help ease some of the anxiety and provide a superior patient experience.
What’s the one message you’d like to get out to women about breast care and breast cancer prevention?
If I could leave you with one message, it would be to be your own advocate as far as annual screenings. Women age 40 and over should have an annual mammogram. If there is a strong family history, talk to your care provider about initiating testing prior to age 40. Annual screenings save lives!
How long has it been since your annual screening? Make an appointment for a yearly mammogram today and take Annette's advice about the importance of screenings in prevention.