Treating a patient who is facing breast surgery involves much more than going to appointments and scheduling a procedure. It takes a team of professionals from a variety of disciplines to address the person’s physical and emotional needs, says Dr. Katie Farrell, a SLUCare breast surgeon at the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.
Farrell says SLUCare providers believe in the interconnectedness of body and mind and the power of collaboration to help patients heal. When a woman needs care for a breast condition such as cancer, professionals in diagnostic imaging, surgery, genetic counseling, hematology/oncology, plastic surgery and social work band together for her benefit. Farrell says providers are in constant communication and attend regular “breast tumor board” meetings to discuss the best possible care.
“My colleagues and I rely on each other,” she notes. “We talk about different diagnoses, and team members are encouraged to bring their own perspectives to the table. We might discuss a genetic mutation responsible for a certain type of breast cancer or examine a case where radiation can’t be used because of underlying health issues. I tell patients that we collaborate in this way to get the best possible expertise on board, and they are grateful for that.”
Farrell says the team approach puts patients at ease because it helps to alleviate fears and clear up confusion. “There are a number of different types of breast cancer, and understanding them can be complex,” she notes. “We can have the patient meet with a genetic counselor before surgery to perform testing and talk about gene mutations and risks for other types of cancer. The patient also can meet with her surgeon up front, and clinical and imaging nurses can answer questions and serve as advocates.”
Because the psychological implications of breast surgery can be just as significant as the physical ones, social workers also are available with resources and support, Farrell says. “Everyone on the SLUCare team truly understands the emotional toll that can come with a breast cancer diagnosis,” she explains. “We often encourage patients to bring a trusted family member or friend to their visits for moral support and clarity. Understanding a cancer diagnosis can get complicated pretty quickly, and we believe two sets of ears are often better than one.”
Farrell adds that the SLUCare provider team believes in positive communication with the patient’s best interests at heart. “When one of my patients needs to see an additional SLUCare doctor, she can rest assured that I will speak with that person on her behalf,” she says. “This really helps patients feel comfortable. With each individual, we ensure that the process of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care is understood because we believe no one should go home with unanswered questions. We are here to ensure all aspects of patient care are addressed for the best possible outcomes.”
The SLUCare breast health program offers a complete cycle of care for patients, including consultation, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. Pictured on the cover: SLUCare breast surgeon Dr. Katie Farrell. For more information, call 314.977.6131 or visit slucare.edu/breast-surgery.
Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group
Pictured at top: Dr. Katie Farrell Consults with a patient
Photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group