"I can’t begin to imagine the anxiety my patients must feel before they come to see me," says Dr. Nicole Callan, General Surgeon at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH).
They’ve already found the lump in their breast. They’ve had a mammogram but they don’t know for sure if it’s cancer. They’re waiting for test results, waiting for answers, and waiting for a plan of action. Every day of waiting is agony.
Thinking about breast cancer and the stress patients go through before they’re even diagnosed makes me extra proud to work at OTMH.
We have the Breast Diagnostic Assessment Program (BDAP) at OTMH which provides patients with rapid access to care. That means less waiting for a diagnosis and treatment.
Through the BDAP, breast cancer patients are guided through the entire process — from diagnosis to treatment to recovery — by a patient navigator. This knowledgeable member of our cancer care team links all specialties together and makes the system function quickly for patients like Virginia.
Ten days after Virginia found a lump in her breast, she received a mammogram at OTMH. The results were concerning so she had an ultrasound and biopsy the very same day. A week later, the pathology report confirmed Virginia’s worst fears: The 51-year-old had breast cancer.
I saw Virginia in my office a few days later to discuss surgery — a lumpectomy and the removal of three surrounding lymph nodes. Our team didn’t want to keep this brave woman waiting for treatment to begin. And thanks to our patient navigator program, we didn’t have to.
“I had aggressive cancer,” says Virginia. “But with the BDAP I had access to care as quickly as I could get it. I believe that will make a difference to how long I’m on this earth.”
Virginia was one of the first patients to benefit from BDAP when our clinic opened in 2016. As a self-professed “action person,” she was reassured by the plan her patient navigator put in place.
“The team shared my entire treatment plan with me,” says Virginia. “I knew what the next 18 months of my life would look like and I could work around that. From day one they were very supportive and remembered that I’m a person, not just a number.”
After the first surgery, pathology showed that Virginia still had residual cancer cells left. Virginia then made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy. Her treatment also included four rounds of chemotherapy and 18 rounds of targeted immunotherapy. She received all of her treatment at OTMH — a seven-minute drive from her home.
“We’re lucky to have such amazing resources to help with cancer in our community,” Virginia says.
As a surgeon, my job is all about giving patients like Virginia the best care possible.
For cancer patients like Virginia removing the tumor is often the first step in their treatment and absolutely crucial to their ultimate healing and recovery.