New services of unique clinic in Sacramento include enhanced support, education, and treatment, including early lymphedema monitoring
In a significant breakthrough for improving women’s health, Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento has opened a unique Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic to help members ease the transition from being a cancer patient to cancer survivor.
It means patients such as Lisa Johnson of Citrus Heights – who has endured surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation – can now take advantage of new services that offer ongoing support, education and treatment to help deal with the disease.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Kaiser Permanente established the new clinic because it has provided me with additional resources to learn about my cancer, which in turn has relieved the anxiety that survivors like me typically deal with,” said Johnson, a 48-year-old high school physical education teacher.
In addition, the new clinic is the only one in the Sacramento region to offer early detection and monitoring of lymphedema – the swelling of the arm that is associated with breast cancer treatment – using a new technology called L-Dex.
The clinic is the first of its kind for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. It opens at a time when the number of breast cancer survivors nationwide is at an all time high and growing: An estimated 3 million women are breast cancer survivors in 2012 – and the number is expected to increase to 3.8 million by 2022.
“Because of early detection, advanced technology, and early treatment, breast cancer is on pace to become a chronic condition and no longer a disease that automatically ends in death,” said Ernie Bodai, MD, director of the new clinic. “We started this clinic because there’s a growing need to support, educate and inform survivors about their cancer and the role their lifestyle plays into preventing recurrence.”
The survivorship clinic adds a new dimension in cancer treatment.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer often endure several months of radiation, or chemotherapy and other treatments, including surgery. Once they are declared cancer free by an oncologist or radiation oncologist, the survivors typically return to being patients of their primary care provider. The survivorship clinic, however, adds a treatment plan between the specialists and the primary care physician.
“Even after being declared cancer free, all survivors deal with unresolved medical issues and long term side effects of treatment,” Dr. Bodai said. “Now we offer a comfortable office and exam room to sit down with these brave women and review their treatment summary, discuss what changes to expect in their health, explain how to lessen the chances of recurrence, offer classes and support groups, and just be available when they need someone to talk to on our staff.”
A highlight of the clinic, housed at the Kaiser Permanente Point West Medical Offices near Cal Expo in Sacramento, is the ability to monitor for lymphedema, a permanent swelling of the arm due to radiation therapy or lymph node removal, that affects one in five patients with breast cancer. Using a new, L-Dex portable device, providers can detect lymphedema through fluid levels before the arm becomes visibly swollen, thus improving the chance of reversing the condition for some patients.
Dr. Bodai, a longtime breast cancer surgeon who now dedicates his time to the survivorship clinic, is a well known advocate for cancer research. He is the founder of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp – the first fundraising stamp in U.S. history, which has raised more than $80 million through the sales of nearly 1 billion stamps.
Kaiser Permanente has a long history of taking a proactive approach to help prevent and treat breast cancer.
Thanks to Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record, when a member comes in for a visit, every employee behind a computer, from the receptionists to the physicians – even those in specialty areas – can remind a patient who is due for a mammogram. In addition, Kaiser Permanente physicians and staff are known to call patients who are overdue for their mammograms, which are often available on a walk-in basis without appointment at hospitals and clinics throughout Greater Sacramento, the Central Valley and the Bay Area.