Enables Working Mom to Stay Close to Home
One Sunday evening, Kristie Prati applied lotion to her body and detected a lump in her breast. She instantly felt compelled to act. “I had that sinking feeling,” Kristie remembered. “I just knew this was something I couldn’t waste time on. I had to make the call.”
The next morning, Kristie phoned the Genesis Cancer Care Center. It seemed like the natural place to call, because she frequently heard patients praise the center in her professional role as counselor at Genesis Rehabilitation Services.
“Co-workers and friends had previously shared the wonderful experiences they had from the Genesis Cancer Care team. I chose to stay around the area for treatment due to keeping my family life as stable/normal as possible,” Kristie said. “I was pleased that I got in quickly to see Dr. Hanley.”
During Kristie’s initial appointment, she received an ultrasound and a physical exam to gather more information.
“Kristie had a mass in her left breast that was smooth and round. The shape and imaging seemed consistent with something benign,” said Shannon Hanley, M.D., fellowship-trained breast surgeon, Genesis Breast Care Center. “Typically, I biopsy tissue and send it to the lab before surgery, but Kristie wanted the lump taken out right away. We did, and surprisingly the pathology revealed malignancy – it was cancer.”
Dr. Hanley explained to Kristie the diagnosis and what her options were for the journey ahead.
“That was a total shock,” Kristie said. “When I was given the diagnosis, my kids were the first thing that popped into my head. I wanted to do everything in my power to stop the cancer from spreading or returning.”
Customized Cancer Care
Kristie is the mother of twin 9-year-old girls, Gabriella and Ava. With them in the forefront of her mind, she chose to undergo chemotherapy and a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
“I let my patients know that long-term survival is the same whether they choose a lumpectomy (surgical removal of part of the breast) or a mastectomy (surgical removal of the entire breast) and then I leave it up to them,” Dr. Hanley said. “There isn’t a cookie-cutter plan for patients. We always consider genetics, density of tissue, type and cancer location and several other factors. Every plan of care is tailored to that patient.”
To customize each patient’s care, members of the Genesis Cancer Care Center collaborate closely. They gather weekly to discuss newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and design the best comprehensive plans.
“It’s something special we have here,” Dr. Hanley said. “The care team is close knit, and the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. We talk and tailor plans for each patient. Some need chemotherapy before surgery, some need surgery first and then chemotherapy, and some don’t need chemo at all.”
One Surgery, Two Purposes
Kristie successfully underwent six rounds of chemotherapy before her mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery.
“I had fairly minimal side effects and continued working throughout chemo. When it came time for surgery, Dr. Hanley and Dr. Tiwari were able to do the mastectomy and start reconstruction at the same time. (Pankaj Tiwari, M.D., is a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction.) “This was important to me because I wanted my life to remain as normal as possible for my husband and children. I did not want them to miss out on any practices or events,” Kristie said.
The collaboration and coordination between breast and plastic surgeons during immediate reconstruction allows patients to eliminate an extra surgery and recover quicker. During the procedure, the breast surgeon removes the tissue, then the plastic surgeon constructs the new breast.
“I find that women undergoing mastectomies have greater satisfaction when these surgeries are performed simultaneously,” Dr. Hanley said.
Familiar Faces, Family Vibes
With Kristie’s reconstruction and chemotherapy recently completed, she’s looking back with gratitude for the ability to have excellent cancer care close to home.
“The Genesis Cancer Care Center is only 10 minutes from my house. Since we’re part of a small community, I saw several familiar faces there. I kept thinking, ‘This is how it’s meant to be – they’re part of my treatment team.’ By the end, they had become like family.”
The cancer care team consists of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, radiation therapists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse navigators and nurse practitioners. Together, they provide leading-edge, compassionate cancer care to community members.
“We’re personally invested in each of our patients. We offer everything a big city cancer center would, yet because of all the familiar faces you’ll see here, our support system can be much stronger than a larger center,” Dr. Hanley said. “I’m proud of the quality of care here.”