RRSTAR: Mercyhealth Looks at Breast Cancer Patients Holistically

ROCKFORD — Tracy Moyse said she’d never been sick a day in her life.

But on April 24, she received a cancer diagnosis.

“It was a shock,” said the 49-year-old Rockton resident. “Originally, I just thought I’d go in for a simple surgery.”

Her doctor, Arvind Mahatme at Mercyhealth’s Women’s Center, advised that even though it was stage 1, to go for additional testing. The 7 millimeter tumor — which is “larger” than what a traditional stage 1 tumor is, Moyse said — was sent to a lab for a full analysis, and it was revealed that the tumor brought with it a greater risk of cancer recurring in other parts of her body.

“Because breast cancer is in my family, I didn’t want to live with the notice of a ticking time bomb in my body,” Moyse said. “I just made the decision to do a double mastectomy.”

Moyse finished her last of four chemotherapy treatments at Mercyhealth at the end of September. During October she will be meeting with another Mercyhealth doctor to discuss hormone therapy. By the end of the year, she hopes to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Moyse looked at several hospitals in the region but ultimately chose Mercyhealth. There, doctors work together to look at the breast cancer patient holistically.

Mercyhealth’s approach is through the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers under the American College of Surgeons. It is the only facility in Rockford with that accreditation, which allows pathologists, radiologists, oncologists, physical therapists, clinical psychologists, nutritionists and plastic surgeons to work in unison to provide services and treatment for women that goes beyond just the cancer diagnosis.

Mercyhealth’s program received the accreditation in May 2017. It is obtained by meeting almost 40 various standards put in place by the American College of Surgeons.

“We’re looking at general health,” Mahatme said. “It’s approaching the patient as a whole, addressing all their needs, not just the specific needs of breast cancer, and making sure they have access to all the services they need as an individual.”

A panel of doctors meet regularly to discuss the program’s patients and their progress, Mahatme said.

“A lot of times that diagnosis is just a small part of what is happening with the patient,” he said. “The patient may have some underlying anxiety or depression. While that may be controlled or masked, the diagnosis can unearth that. You have to address the patient’s mental health as well.”

Through her recovery process, Moyse said she receives a call or a text at least once a day to check in on her.

“You have people to make sure you don’t go through it alone,” she said as she started fighting back tears. “It’s a daily support system, which none of the other big hospitals have.”

Dr. Aaron Frye, a plastic surgeon, is part of the team overseeing Moyse for her breast reconstruction surgery. About 97 percent of his patients undergo an implant-based breast reconstruction, he said. The most common reconstruction involves inserting a tissue expander that slowly makes room for a permanent breast.

“Not only is (the diagnosis) traumatizing to the patients, but then they have to make a lot of decisions and meet with a lot of doctors,” Frye said. “If you can bring all those patients together under one roof … that’s very convenient for the patient.”

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