In the fight against breast cancer, it’s quality that matters

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Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy. The emotional shock coupled with the immediate need to schedule medical appointments and begin a life-changing journey is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. With an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, it’s important to know what to look for when choosing a health care team.

A team approach

To help ease the burden and help patients manage their care, many cancer treatment centers are turning to a comprehensive care model. Under a comprehensive care model, providers work together to develop the best treatment options for each patient.

For example, a typical breast cancer patient may see a radiologist, pathologist, surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, palliative care, and plastic surgeon. In addition to this team of physicians, patients also have access to nutritionists, pharmacists, social workers, and financial counselors as part of their care team.

Timothy Quinn, M.D., general surgeon, is the medical director of Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services’ breast team. Together with a multidisciplinary team of providers, he discusses treatment options and helps to coordinate the best care plan for each patient.

“The treatment of complex disease as breast cancer really benefits from a team approach,” he said. “Once treatment is completed, the cancer center provides a survivorship care plan to help with follow-up and surveillance.”

In 2017, Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services saw 236 breast cancer patients, roughly 20 percent of all cancer patients. In fact, breast cancer was the No. 1 rated cancer site, followed closely by lung and prostate cancer.

To help manage these cases and provide personalized care, Kootenai Clinic assigns each patient to a nurse navigator to help them navigate through the treatment and recovery process.

“Basically, patients are able to obtain input from multiple specialists all at once,” said Teresa Johnston, operations manager for Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services. “Specialists are able to review the imaging and the pathology and determine the best course of treatment based on national guidelines.”

Excellence in breast cancer treatment

Kootenai Clinic’s breast cancer program recently earned a center of excellence accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). Organizations that achieve NAPBC accreditation demonstrate a firm commitment to offer patients every significant advantage in their treatment.

“I am really proud to have played a role in achieving the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) verifications,” Dr. Quinn said. “Achieving verification involved meeting multiple standards to ensure our breast disease patients are receiving up–to-date quality care. I don’t believe there are many other currently verified programs elsewhere in Idaho or Spokane.”

Second opinions from Mayo Clinic

When a unique case comes through, Kootenai providers are able to consult with providers at Mayo Clinic through the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Through the eConsult program, local providers can request a second opinion or consultation directly from Mayo Clinic at any time, so patients and providers get the information they need, without traveling. Last year, 120 patients benefited from this service.

“It takes a lot of hard work to establish this level of excellence in patient care,” Johnston said. “It’s made easier because we have a team of medical professionals dedicated to providing the best care to our patients.”

You can learn more about cancer treatment at Kootenai Clinic Cancer Services by visiting

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