You’re Not Alone in Your Breast Cancer Journey

Medical provider holding patient hand.

A breast cancer diagnosis can make a person feel overwhelmed and often terrified. Treatment option details often become blurred with the emotional impact of the disease. Baptist Health Care is here to assure you that you are not alone in your breast cancer journey. From the moment you hear “you have breast cancer” to the day you become a breast cancer survivor, patients will have easy access to resources through Baptist’s breast health navigation program.

“The purpose of our new breast health navigation program is to provide patients with a single point of contact from the moment of diagnosis through the entire treatment process,” said Rachel Forehand, R.N., oncology support services manager at Baptist.

As soon as a patient receives a breast cancer diagnosis, the women’s imaging department connects her to Kelly Ward, MSW, CN-BM, who serves as Baptist’s breast health navigator. Ward is an experienced social worker who holds special certification as a breast management navigator. Her role is to serve as a consistent care coordinator, assessing the physical, psychological and social needs of the patient, making sure the patient’s desired care plan is executed in a timely manner.

Ward’s first step is to confirm that the patient understands the results of the diagnostic examination, including mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. “It’s important that patients ask questions and learn as much as they can about what they are facing,” Ward explained. “I encourage questions and facilitate communication to make sure the patient has a solid understanding of the diagnosis and treatment plan.” 

Treatment for a breast cancer patient may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. The timing and frequency of these treatments must be carefully scheduled to provide optimum results. Other aspects of the patient’s health require special attention, too. Good nutrition is a key component of recovery, and the program connects the patient with dietitians who can help when patients experience appetite or weight changes. 

One of the most important aspects of Baptist’s breast health navigation program is its most basic: a friendly face. From the first visit, Ward is that friendly face who greets a patient and supports her throughout the treatment experience. A cancer diagnosis is new territory for most patients. The breast health navigator serves as counselor, advocate, educator, consultant and liaison. 

After a breast cancer patient completes her treatments, that doesn’t mean her care has ended. The breast health navigator assists patients in managing their “new normal” by providing education on nutrition and exercise as well as providing tools for coping with new emotions and potential long-term side effects. “Our patients become like family during their treatment,” Forehand said. “When they see their navigator, they know everything is taken care of. The navigation program is something we are proud to offer our community in their deepest time of need.” 

Those interested in more information about cancer support services at Baptist may contact Rachel Forehand at 850.469.7462.