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Targeting Cancer: Oregon Cancer Alliance helps patients navigate their journey

Photo credit: Oregon Cancer Alliance

Hearing the words “breast cancer” can be scary. Patients are suddenly inundated with information and are faced with many decisions.

The Oregon Cancer Alliance (OCA) supports breast cancer patients by bringing those patients’ specialists together, to provide coordinated care that’s easier for patients to navigate.

The OCA has specialized teams working together for patients with breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancers. It will soon add a lung cancer team, as well as a team to care for patients with gynecologic cancers.

“Lane County attracts a high level of highly skilled physicians, but because we’re not all under one roof, so to speak, we needed a virtual roof,” explains Dr. Christine Kollmorgen, a surgeon with Northwest Surgical Specialists.

“It takes a lot of people coming together to optimize care for patients,” says WVCI radiation oncologist Dr. Emily Dunn. “We talk to each other about challenging cases and how to help patients through this process as smoothly as possible.”

Dr. Benjamin Cho, a medical oncologist with Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, and Dr. Winnie Henderson, a surgeon with Northwest Surgical Specialists, lead the OCA’s breast team, a group of radiologists, pathologists, medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and plastic surgeons.

“Within the Oregon Cancer Alliance, we’re able to provide coordinated and advanced treatment, including the latest state-of-the-art technology,” says Dr. Henderson.

Dr. Cho says, “One of the main features of the Oregon Cancer Alliance are our navigators. They link one provider to the other and make sure the patient experience is relatively seamless.”

Navigators lead patients through each step of the cancer care system, from start to finish. “And overall, that results in the patient getting the most optimal care available,” says Dr. Michael Milstein, a radiologist and director of Oregon Medical Group’s Cedar Clinic.

“Our role as navigators is to identify those needs, help connect people with the resources that will be able to meet those needs, and then work with the clinics to make sure those appointments are scheduled and patients know where they’re going and why they’re going,” says Lisa Tucker, a nurse navigator with Northwest Surgical Specialists.

“A breast cancer diagnosis is very personal,” says Dr. Henderson. “With the OCA, patients really feel like their hands are held through the entire process. It’s a beautiful dance of how we put things together for our patients.”

For more information on the Oregon Cancer Alliance, click here.

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