Serving Our Community

Class on Preparing for Breast Cancer Surgery Marks One Year Supporting Patients

A breast cancer diagnosis can be frightening. Englewood Health is helping to make patients feel more comfortable by offering a free class that walks them through the breast cancer surgery and recuperation period. Now celebrating its one-year mark, Englewood Health’s Prepare for Breast Cancer Surgery class is a collaboration among the hospital’s breast cancer surgery, rehabilitation, and patient navigation teams.

“For women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be a very scary time in their lives,” says Pat LoPinto, APN, a nurse practitioner with Englewood Health’s breast surgery program. “By participating in the class, patients begin to understand what to expect, which makes them feel more in control and therefore more comfortable. Ultimately, it helps to improve patient care.” 

She adds, “The class prepares patients and their families for all aspects of breast cancer surgery and recovery, including temporary restrictions, practical limitations, and caring for oneself at home after partial mastectomy, mastectomy, or breast reconstruction. We try to assure patients that they will get through this, while encouraging them to adhere to the recommended guidelines.”

The idea for the Prepare for Breast Cancer Surgery program sprang from Englewood Health’s rehabilitation team. “During the class,” says occupational therapist Erin Ingoglia, OTR/L, “we talk patients through all aspects of surgery—whom they will see, follow-up care, things to be aware of, resources, and more. The class helps reduce their anxiety about their upcoming surgery.”

Prior to breast cancer surgery, many Englewood Health patients have a physical or occupational therapy evaluation to address issues that might affect them post-surgically, such as posture, or limitations in strength or range of motion. After surgery, outpatient physical or occupational therapy can help patients to build strength, increase range of motion, and improve quality of life. During the class, Englewood Health’s rehabilitation team discusses signs and symptoms of potential surgical side effects, such as lymphedema (swelling due to build-up of lymph fluid in the body that can be caused by cancer or cancer treatment), and steps to take to prevent the condition or minimize its severity.

“The class,” says oncology patient navigator Cathy Verhulst, MS, LCSW, “is designed to increase knowledge, decrease fears, and elevate a person’s readiness for breast cancer surgery. Most important, we want patients to know that we are here for them. They can pick up the phone and call the team with questions, for guidance, or if they need support.”

During the class, Verhulst offers practical suggestions for the recuperation period on such topics as setting up a healing space; taking care of children and answering their questions; grocery shopping; transportation to doctors’ appointments; applying for disability coverage; community resources; and, most notably, taking time to breathe (in and out, she emphasizes).

The one-hour Prepare for Breast Cancer Surgery class is offered monthly, and participants are encouraged to bring a family member or friend. Its first year has been remarkably successful, with participants reporting that it helped them feel more relaxed about their approaching surgery.

The team is also producing an online version of the class. The Prepare for Breast Cancer Surgery video will be available through Englewood Health’s website. Breast cancer patients and their families will soon be able to access the class at home, or wherever they choose, at a time most convenient for them.

For more information, contact the breast cancer surgery program at 201-894-3893 or the cancer center at 201-608-2266.

The Englewood Health breast surgical services team
The Englewood Health breast surgical services team

About Breast Surgery at Englewood Health

Our team of renowned and expert surgeons diagnoses and treats breast disease and disorders and offers surgical diagnostic procedures and treatments. Working hand in hand with other specialists, we take a comprehensive approach to provide patients with a sense of clarity, calmness and reassurance that they are getting the best possible care. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we remind our community that we are here to care for you in a safe environment. We are limiting the number of patients in our offices at one time and, when possible, offering video visits.

Major Areas of Expertise

  • Benign and malignant breast diseases
  • High risk patients – BRCA positive, atypical pathology
  • Hidden scar surgery
  • Oncoplastic reconstruction
  • Nipple sparing mastectomies
  • Breast reconstruction – implants and DIEP flaps

Posted on November 3, 2020

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