Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Fall 2003

Technological Advancements in Treatment of Breast Cancer
PET Scan Techonology
Every Step of the Way
Knowledge is Power
Supportive Care Programs for Women with Breast Cancer
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Every Step of the Way

Treating cancer is more than addressing the physical condition. So much of the healing process is addressing the emotional needs of the patient. As a liaison between the Joan Karnell Cancer Center and the surgical oncologists at Pennsylvania Hospital, Susan Kruse, RN, BSN, OCN, a surgical oncology nurse coordinator, understands the body and mind connection and works with patients to realize both physical and mental well-being.

When patients first meet Susan, it is at the onset of care prior to testing or surgery. During this visit, she takes their history and if they are scheduled for surgery explains the pre-surgery process. More importantly, however, she lets patients know that she is a resource – whether it is to answer questions, explain a treatment, or simply offer support.

“The most common question I get from newly diagnosed patients is ‘What do I do next?’ said Kruse. “They want to know what is expected of them,what they are responsible for in terms of the care.” It is a stressful time and can easily be overwhelming, but Kruse is committed to helping each patient have peace of mind.

Understanding that each phase of treatment brings with it new questions and concerns, Kruse makes every effort stay connected. “I usually visit the patients in the hospital after the surgery to see how they are doing and talk to them about the next step in their treatment.”

“What I find especially beneficial to patients is when I talk to them about the ‘team approach’ at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center," said Kruse. She explains to patients about the multidisciplinary team meetings where specialists meet to discuss new patients and collaborate on the best course of treatment. Susan adds that patients appreciate this comprehensive approach to their treatment.

Susan has been proactive in providing care and support for breast cancer patients. She is active in helping recruit patients for breast cancer studies. She also looks at ways to improve patient care. One example is her work with lymphedema patients.

Following their surgery, patients may experience discomfort and limited mobility in the affected arm. Kruse felt that some form of physical therapy soon after surgery would help patients minimize this discomfort and decrease the risk of swelling. She worked with the Joan Karnell Cancer Center to obtain a grant to fund a part-time occupational therapist to work exclusively with lymphedema patients. The program has been instrumental in helping patients experience a fuller recovery.

Also, she is actively involved in several of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center support groups and programs and is a co-facilitator for two groups – Facing Forward and Person-to-Person.

The Joan Karnell Cancer Center has a variety of programs and services dedicated to helping patients cope with every aspect of cancer. Several of the programs have been especially beneficial to breast cancer patients. These include the Cancer Risk Evaluation Program and the Surgical Oncology Program.


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