Meet The Panel Tackling Communication Gaps In Patient Care
Late last year, health-care professionals and early breast cancer patients were asked, via survey, to weigh in on unmet needs in care; specifically around communication, goal alignment and the need for additional treatment options. What we learned is that although patients and their health-care professionals have a positive relationship there are still some communication gaps that need to be closed. For example, three-quarters of patients cited their physician as their preferred source of treatment information, yet only half of patients felt their physician told them about all of their treatment options. We can do better than that!
That’s why, on November 20th, Rethink Breast Cancer is bringing patients, health-care professionals and community partners together on a panel for our latest forum Lost in Translation: Addressing Gaps in Communication Between Cancer Patients and Health-Care Providers. We’re aiming to spark productive dialogue from all sides of the table to ensure that health-care providers can support and empower their patients to feel confident in their treatment and care plan. Meet our expert panel:
Dr. Jory Simpson, Surgical Oncologist
Dr. Jory Simpson is a Breast Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Medical Director at the CIBC Breast Centre. In addition to ensuring the over 20,000 women who come through the center every year get quality care, he’s started the Patient as Teacher program to ensure that the surgeons of tomorrow understand the importance of the human experience in the delivery of care.
Here’s what Dr. Simpson has to say about how the health-care system can support better communication between health-care providers and patients: “Quality markers for physicians should involve not only surgical outcomes but patient satisfaction. Getting patient feedback is a great way to accomplish this.”
Nadine Parsons, Patient Ambassador
After years of being dismissed by medical professionals, Nadine Parsons was diagnosed with Stage 4, metastatic breast cancer at the age of 36. Even in the face of her diagnosis, she has kept a positive mindset and sets out to inspire and connect to others in the breast cancer community through her blog and Instagram account Thrive to Shine. Nadine knows the medical system well – being stage 4 means her treatment doesn’t end. Here is what effective communication with her health team looks to her: “More time. I constantly feel rushed in appointments with my oncologist as the wait rooms are chock-full of patients. I bring a notebook but still always feel like I am in a race to get through my questions. Also, as I am my doctor’s youngest patient, I feel there is often a disconnect in the delivery of communication and an overall lack of understanding of what this all means and how overwhelming this is at my age.”
Dr. Rossanna Pezo, Medical Oncologist
Dr. Rosanna Pezo is a Medical Oncologist at the Odette Cancer Centre. Having spent the past six years working with breast cancer patients, Dr. Pezo understands that young women faced with breast cancer have needs unique to their demographic, and that there are many misconceptions about being young with cancer. Here’s the biggest barrier Dr. Pezo faces when communicating with younger patients: “With younger women, this is often the first time that they have been in the hospital needing serious treatments, which is a difficult adjustment to make. We need to be clear about what to realistically expect from their diagnosis and treatment. Communication needs to be tailored to what is most important to them and may not necessarily be the same as what I think would be most concerning to them.”
Alanna Kibbe, Patient Ambassador
Alanna Kibbe is a young, early breast cancer patient who is passionate about patients being an active member of their breast cancer team alongside clinical care providers and loved ones. Her decision-making process (guided by research and intuition) helped govern her decision to get a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction – a choice that brought on expectations of her femininity from clinicians and loved ones. Here is what Alanna wishes she discussed with her health-care team at diagnosis: “To ask about healing processes and modalities from the beginning. In my experience, it is presumed that healing originates after events or processes, like from surgery or treatments. But healing can begin with just the knowledge of cancer; before these events, it can be embedded into our days and lives, into our love and even how we breathe.”
Laura Mitchell, Clinical Nurse Specialist
Laura works in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. She has co-led the development of the AYA Program at Princess Margaret with Dr. Gupta. Laura is also an adjunct lecturer with Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto and the co-author of numerous oral and written publications addressing adolescent and young adult oncology needs. She is involved in AYA-related initiatives both nationally and internationally and has 10 years of previous nursing experience in medical/radiation oncology and symptom management and palliative care. This is what Laura identifies as the biggest misconception about young women and cancer: “Once cancer treatment is complete, there can be the expectation that transitioning back to regular life is easy for young women. However, sometimes this can be one of the most challenging times in their illness trajectory.”
MJ DeCoteau, Founder and Executive Director
As the founder of Rethink Breast Cancer, MJ DeCoteau has dedicated the past 17 years ensuring the unique needs and challenges young women facing a cancer diagnosis are being met. She firmly believes that community partners such as Rethink have an important role to play in ensuring young patients get quality care. Being high risk herself, she has had her share of scans and close calls. Earlier this year, she decided to get a preventative bilateral mastectomy. She brings to the panel both her experiences as a patient and the perspective on the role of community partners in removing barriers and improving the patient/health-care provider relationship. Here’s what MJ has to say about the role of community partners in empowering patients in their treatment decisions: “Rethink’s education and support work helps empower patients to effectively participate in shared decision-making. By building a dynamic community of young women with breast cancer, we are helping them access information through content, networking and conversations. We also translate media headlines and synthesize an overwhelming amount of new, complex information while helping to process their emotions so they feel comfortable bringing their voice and values to their health-care team.”