For The Leader
Cancer is complex. As a result, it often requires various treatment therapies. That’s why Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital uses a team approach to deliver quality cancer care. The Hospital’s Breast Care Center is fully accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, which signifies the highest standards of care for patients with diseases of the breast.
Many Medical Disciplines Contribute to Each Care Plan
Members of the Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Breast Care Team work collaboratively to develop a plan of care and to monitor patients to meet their unique medical, physical and emotional needs throughout their cancer journeys. Team members include affiliated physicians who specialize in general and plastic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology, along with rehabilitation specialists and Oncology Nurse Navigator Angela Sisk, MSN, RN, OCN (“Sisk”).
Sisk uses her decades of experience as an oncology nurse to guide, educate and support cancer patients from a possible cancer diagnosis through survivorship. She explains how the team approach begins.
“We ask newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to meet with a breast surgeon, a medical oncologist – the doctor who manages chemotherapy – and a radiation oncologist before treatment begins,” says Sisk. “Then these specialists, along with other members of the Breast Care Team, present the patient’s case at a weekly conference. The team discusses evidence-based guidelines and appropriate care before finalizing their recommendation for the patient’s individualized treatment plan.”
Each physician brings a different skill set to the care team, looking at each case differently. Team member W. Mike Ratliff, MD (“Dr. Ratliff”), an affiliated surgeon who specializes in diseases of the breast, praises the multidisciplinary approach to patient care.
“After everyone presents their findings and recommendations, we will reach consensus on a patient’s treatment plan,” says Dr. Ratliff. “Sometimes one physician will ask, ‘Have you considered this?’ or ‘Should we do that?’ I have no doubt this collegiality has led to improved care for breast cancer patients.”
Sisk documents treatment recommendations into each patient’s medical records. The physician who treats the patient first shares the proposed plan, including the order of specific therapies. Maximum time is allowed for questions and acceptance of the plan.
“I try to allay my patients’ fears and encourage them emotionally because breast cancer is largely a very treatable disease,” says Dr. Ratliff. “If you can help them and reassure them, then they can say, ‘I can do this,’ and that’s a neat thing to see.”
Weekly Meetings and Constant Support
After treatment begins, the Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Breast Care Team meets weekly to discuss each patient’s progress.
As Nurse Navigator, Sisk serves as the liaison between patients and the Breast Care Team. She is passionate about sharing community and hospital resources with her patients to enhance each one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well being.
“I look at the whole person and always assess barriers to care, whether they’re financial, transportation or psychosocial,” says Sisk. “I call patients at high-stress times, which include before and after surgery and during chemotherapy.”
Making Significant Strides in Breast Cancer Care
Breast cancer treatment has significantly improved over the past three decades, as witnessed by Dr. Ratliff.
“Obviously we’d like for no one to have breast cancer, but with improved treatment options, patients are experiencing better outcomes, living longer and often being cured, and that’s very gratifying,” says Dr. Ratliff.
To learn more about breast cancer care at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, contact Angela Sisk at 713.867.2062.