South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 26, 2019
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October 2010 - Volume 7 - Issue 4

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Navigating with Breast Cancer: One Hospitalís Effort to Provide Emotional Support

“You have breast cancer.”

The words always come as a shock. To a woman, they may strike at her sense of feminine identity. To men – among whom the disease is much less common – the reaction is often, “but I thought only women … ”
 
The truth is, breast cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age or sex. Former first lady Betty Ford, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, singer Olivia Newton-John and actor Richard Roundtree are all breast cancer survivors.
 
Most that receive a breast cancer diagnosis wonder how they can increase their chances of surviving it – emotionally as well as physically. While a breast cancer diagnosis may sound the same to everyone, the patients who receive the diagnosis can experience varied reactions with emotions that range from disbelief to anger, anxiety to resignation and then finally acceptance. Many people may also experience feelings of shock, fear, guilt, sadness, grief and depression. One of the most important factors in managing these emotions is having support from a dedicated and experienced team of medical specialists.
 
At Good Samaritan Medical Center, patients’ emotional well-being is a priority and the hospital has implemented a unique program to support patients throughout their entire breast cancer journey.
 
Good Samaritan Medical Center is home to the Comprehensive Breast Center. The Center provides patients and their families with the full range of advanced technology and trained medical professionals needed for screening, early detection, and effective treatment of breast cancer. Throughout the process, Good Samaritan’s Patient Navigator – an award-winning registered nurse and former military officer named Mary Jean Houlahan – combines in-depth knowledge with signature warmth and caring to guide patients through the uncertain times that follow a breast cancer diagnosis.
 
The Good Samaritan Navigation Program was launched in April 2007, and is one of the only programs of its kind among all for profit hospital systems in Palm Beach County. The program is based on a model developed by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and helps patients “navigate” through and cope with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. From scheduling appointments and reviewing physician orders to explaining treatment options to patients and coordinating communications with all members of the medical team, the Good Samaritan patient navigator helps breast cancer patients feel more assured and gives them skills to cope.
 
One of the most important messages the Good Samaritan Navigation Program conveys to patients is to learn to manage feelings, rather than letting them manage the patient. How do patients do this? By learning and using effective coping skills. Here are a few of the Navigation Program’s key suggestions to cope:
 
Learn about the disease.
Learning about breast cancer can help patients better understand the type of cancer they have, treatment options and chances for recovery. Knowing what patients are up against can lessen fears and give them a sense of control over their treatment.
 
Talk about it.
Many women find that talking to people, including family, friends or other breast cancer survivors, about their feelings provides much needed emotional support. If patients are not the talkative type, it’s recommended to keep a journal. Working through feelings about cancer can help patients maintain a positive attitude and better handle stress.
 
Take care of yourself.
Each patient should find something he or she enjoys doing, like watching a movie, taking a hot bath, or reading a book. Patients must pay attention to their physical needs and get enough sleep, eat right and exercise- based on doctors’ recommendations of course.
 
Ask for help and set limits.
If a patient can’t get the housework done, we recommend either putting it off or asking a friend or relative to help. Most people will gladly pitch in to help with specific tasks, so garner the support from friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family to get important, yet demanding tasks done. Patients also need to set limits for themselves if they begin to feel overwhelmed by work, household duties or social commitments.
 
Seek spiritual support.
Many patients find that talking with a pastor, rabbi or other religious leader can provide comfort and guidance in dealing with the challenge of breast cancer. Reciting prayers, meditating, or reading inspirational books may help patients feel more at peace.
Coping with breast cancer can seem like an uphill battle, especially if a patient feels their emotional needs are unmet. That is why Good Samaritan Medical Center helps patients develop a support system of family, friends, and a dedicated patient navigator. While the emotional stress of dealing with breast cancer can be overwhelming, patients don’t have to manage it alone.
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