Project aims to improve care for rural breast cancer patients 50 and under

by Vicky Cerino
March 08, 2018

Image with file name: Elizabeth_Reed_Oncology_2013.jpg

Breast cancer is typically a disease that strikes older women. But it can strike women in their younger years and be disruptive for a woman’s plans for a career and family.

With the help of collaborating cancer physicians in Norfolk, North Platte and Grand Island, a team at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical and Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, will conduct a quality improvement project to address issues specific to younger patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

About 1,300 women in Nebraska are diagnosed every year with breast cancer, but a much smaller number of those are under age 50. Breast cancer patients 50 and under will have an opportunity to participate in the project through their physicians, Ryan Ramaekers, M.D., in Grand Island, Irfan Vaziri, M.D., in North Platte or Rabih Fahed, M.D., in Norfolk.

The two-year project is funded by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN) and Pfizer Inc. to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care. The NCCN is a not-for-profit alliance of 27 leading cancer centers, which includes the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. The NCCN sets standards for cutting-edge treatments and care guidelines.

"We want to put the treatment aspects for young breast cancer patients together in one place so it’s easy for physicians to tap into the latest cancer treatment and support guidelines for their patients," said Elizabeth Reed, M.D., UNMC professor of internal medicine and breast cancer expert at Nebraska Medicine. "With the help of our collaborating physicians, we will measure the effectiveness of the resources. The goal is to improve the care and satisfaction of patients - with the idea that patients participate in shared decision-making as much as possible."

The team will develop a care navigation "map" specifically for younger women, using NCCN guidelines and continuing education videos produced by experts from UNMC/Nebraska Medicine. The resources will be available online.

The goal is to help the physicians and their patients with decision-making in six primary areas: surgery, fertility counseling, genetic counseling, radiation, hormone therapy practices, and physical-psycho-social consultation and prevention issues.

Another objective is to develop telemedicine connections to enable collaborating physicians to participate in one-hour weekly multidisciplinary consultation clinics regularly held at the medical center. During the clinics, a team of assembled experts at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center evaluates patient cases and discusses treatment options.

"I am excited to collaborate with UNMC to provide our young breast cancer patients access to the wealth of expertise that this project provides," Dr. Ramaekers said. "Our goal is to empower these women with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their care."

Those at UNMC involved include Dr. Reed, Robin Lally, Ph.D., UNMC College of Nursing; Brenda Ram, interim director of UNMC Continuing Education; as well as physicians and experts specializing in genetic counseling, radiology, reproductive medicine, reconstructive surgery, urogynecology, physical therapy, psychology/oncology, exercise physiology and survivorship.

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

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