Bringing Comfort and Compassion to Breast Cancer Treatment
At first, Gladys McIntyre attributed periodic pain in her right breast to an increased walking regimen, or to just getting older. But then she also noticed slight discoloration and knew it was time to see her doctor.
Fortunately, Gladys, age 66, had paid attention to her symptoms. After a mammogram, an ultrasound examination and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with early stage invasive ductal carcinoma. "I have a mammogram every year, but this was unusual," she remembers.
She turned to the team of cancer specialists at New Milford Hospital's Diebold Family Cancer Center for treatment. A lifelong Dover Plains, New York resident, Gladys had relied on New Milford Hospital for decades and so had her family, "So the decision was a comfortable one," she says. In fact, that decision gave Gladys more comfort than she could have anticipated. "I felt better after my very first call to New Milford Hospital," says Gladys. She recounts her conversation with Sandra Cruz, Coordinator for the Department of Oncology, who "immediately answered all my questions and set up all my appointments."
Gladys first met with Medical Oncologist Sandra Lombardo, MD, followed by appointments with surgeon Kirstin Pilchard, MD and radiation oncologist Joseph Bargellini, MD. The three doctors determined her plan of care. Gladys was kept informed every step of the way: "I knew who my team was. Every time I left an appointment, I knew what would happen next. There was never any confusion or waiting. It was a wonderful experience."
"At the Diebold Family Cancer Center at New Milford Hospital we give our patients the best possible experience in a frightening situation," says Dr. Lombardo. "Our medical treatment is state of the art, the same treatments that are given at major centers – but with a supportive atmosphere created by the nurses, volunteers, and community that is unique to this facility. We have a team of exceptionally compassionate oncology nurses who not only care for, but pamper our patients through this anxious time in their lives."
Surgery and Treatment
Because Gladys’s cancer was early stage and had not spread to her lymph nodes, Gladys was able to have a lumpectomy, removing only the cancerous tissue. The one-day surgery was performed by Dr. Pilchard, and included preparation of the breast for MammoSite radiation treatment. Gladys was discharged and had "minimal pain."
"The surgical experience here is very personal," says Dr. Pilchard. "Our nurse navigators are there for our patients from the start. Patients here are given the opportunity for a pre-biopsy examination by the surgeon to discuss expectations, risk factors, and contact with the surgeon after the biopsy, should further therapy be required. Our staff’s weekly multi-disciplinary conferences keep physicians up to date on our patients’ status and progress. Most importantly, we recognize that patients should never feel alone through this process."
The week after her surgery, Gladys started Mammosite radiation treatment under the direction of Dr. Bargellini. MammoSite involves the insertion of a balloon-like device in the breast in the area where the tumor was removed for a procedure called accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI). A wire that contains radiation is programmed to travel through the catheter and treat the area from the inside. Gladys had 10 MammoSite treatments administered twice a day, over five consecutive days, for about 20 minutes per session. The process was pain-free, "even relaxing," and without side effects, she recalls.
Dr. Joseph Bargellini, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at New Milford Hospital led the team that took care of Gladys’ radiation treatment. "Gladys was a suitable candidate for the APBI," says Dr. Bargellini, "because her tumor was small with appropriate characteristics, and her lymph nodes were negative.” According to to Dr. Bargellini, “For patients who meet the criteria, APBI is an attractive treatment option. It is completed in about a week and gives less radiation to surrounding normal tissue."
Gladys was lucky that she did not require chemotherapy. But for patients who do need chemotherapy, the hospital offers numerous complimentary medical techniques to help relieve patients’ discomforts during the treatment. Reflexology, acupuncture and Reiki, all available at NMH, can put the patient ease and decrease symptoms of anxiety and nausea.
Seven weeks from her first phone call to New Milford Hospital, Gladys was cancer-free. That was six months ago, and she has an excellent prognosis. She returns to the hospital periodically for followup mammograms.
"I am so amazed at how terrific my experience was – how smoothly my treatment went, how caring and amazing everybody was. Even when I went back for a followup, the nurse that changed my dressings knew I was there and came out and gave me a big hug," she says. "I feel great!" Gladys has her experience and some good advice to share: go for your cancer screenings, pay attention to any symptoms, and trust the high quality cancer care at New Milford Hospital.
For more information on the services provided at the Diebold Family Center Center, go to NewMilfordHospital.org.
About Western Connecticut Health Network
Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premier, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. As a University teaching organization, WCHN is anchored by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital. WCHN offers a full continuum of care through its system of affiliated organizations that provide innovative preventative, primary and specialty care as well as home care.
For more information, visit WesternConnecticutHealthNetwork.org, DanburyHospital.org; NewMilfordHospital.org and share your comments with us at Facebook.com/DanburyHospital or Facebook.com/NewMilfordHospital.