What Breast Cancer Nurses Want You to Know
This story is part of a series in which Avera nurses and other care team members share their perspectives on facing cancer, and how they keep patients at the center of everything they do.
Michelle Strout, LPN, is a clinic nurse with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care. She works with Tricia Merrigan, MD, and has done so for six years. These are important points she shares with her patients.
We’re now a part of your support team. No matter how big or small it is, we’re enlisted in your effort to fight this cancer. We’ll spell things out, we’ll share our expertise and we’ll be there to make sure you understand what you face.
Your cancer experience will not be the same as that of your family member. We will treat you specifically, using research and tests to address the breast cancer you face. No two cancers are the same. No matter how someone you know fared, realize you’re our patient and we’ll be there to support you with care tailored exactly for you. We’ll use genomic testing, imaging and much more to make sure you have the best possible care.
It’s natural to want to be “rid of” the cancer more than anything. Some women come to us and expect to have a mastectomy because their focus is solely on getting rid of this disease. You may have other options. While a mastectomy is an option, it’s not always the first step. Surgical approaches have advanced greatly. In some cases, removing a lump may be all that is needed. In addition, we have plastic and reconstructive surgeons on our team, and a lift or other approach may leave you with a more aesthetically pleasing outcome. So do not jump to the conclusion that we’ll necessarily start with mastectomy.
Treatment takes time and has its mental and physical impacts. Some women lose their hair during chemotherapy; others lose none. While we aim to make each surgical procedure as thorough as possible, there are times when patients have an initial surgery, along with reconstruction. In other cases, we may place expanders and a second surgery completes the implantation and reconstruction process. As women, we can be self-critical, but as your care team, we’ll be your guides, to remind you that things are going to be OK, even if you need chemotherapy, endocrine therapy or other approaches best for your situation. We will share the facts, even the hard-to-face ones, and be your support when you need us most.