HOLYOKE — Breast cancer is a scary diagnosis, and patients want state-of-the-art treatment from a highly-qualified, compassionate team of professionals.
Breast cancer patients at Holyoke Medical Center receive that and much more, as indicated by the National Accreditation Program (NAP) for Breast Centers, which in May awarded HMC’s Breast Cancer Center with a prestigious three-year national accreditation.
HMC is the only hospital in Western Mass. to have earned this accreditation, and one of just four hospitals in the state to be recognized this way.
Oncology and Women’s Center staff underwent the rigorous evaluation process this spring. HMC passed with flying colors, demonstrating proficiency and excellence in the areas of leadership, clinical management, research, community outreach, professional education, and quality improvement, said Medical Director Dr. Zubeena Mateen, who directs HMC’s Breast Cancer Program.
“We have a state-of-the-art facility, with board-certified physicians and oncologists. We offer everything — high-resolution digital mammography, MRI guided biopsies, stereotactic core needle biopsies, surgeries, individualized treatment plans, and extensive follow-up,” said Mateen.
In addition, the NAP reporter cited that “the nursing staff responsible for the care of breast cancer patients … seem to treat patients like part of the family.”
Cancer Registrar Lynn Downey said it was an exciting process. “Once we had gathered the information, we realized we were already well on our way. We work really well as a team, each with our own areas of expertise, so it was a matter of bringing all that together.”
Nurse Navigator Laura O’Donnell, who helps patients navigate what can be a complicated system of doctors, treatments, schedules, side effects and family concerns, said the goal is always to provide patients with the best outcome possible.
“Having these credentials reflects the comprehensiveness of the care we provide,” she said. “We work well with all the different providers, and have the necessary support to help breast cancer patients from the time they’re diagnosed through survivorship.”
Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Dr. Alan Stark praised HMC staff. “Quality is the name of the game,” he said. “This is very prestigious for us, as there is no other facility in this area that is accredited.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer seen at HMC. Breast cancer and tumor conferences, held monthly, gather professionals from all areas of cancer treatment to discuss, review, and form treatment plans for specific cases.
HMC’s close relationship with the American Cancer Society (ACS) also benefits patients, who participate in their many programs and can meet regularly with a cancer liaison. HMC is a sponsor of the ACS Relay for Life, and a top fund-raiser during Daffodil Days.
Cancer services are centralized at HMC, enhancing convenience and accessibility for patients, who can usually schedule appointments within the week.
Breast cancer survivor Karen Mickey, who underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy two years ago, now has a clean bill of health.
“My HMC experience was phenomenal,” she said. “I can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses, the financial department, the therapists. It was clockwork. Everyone went out of their way to help me. HMC is truly a gem for breast cancer treatment.”
Providing ongoing support is the well-attended Breast Cancer Support Group, coordinated by Vilmarie Villanueva at the Women’s Center, featuring education including yoga, massage, and psychotherapy. Villanueva also organizes extensive community outreach and navigation to the local, culturally sensitive Hispanic population.
“This accreditation really opens doors for the hospital. I think patients choose to come here because it’s more familial, which makes it easier for them to come in for treatment,” said Villanueva. “I think it’s wonderful that we’re a small hospital, and we can offer these services that many bigger hospitals don’t offer.”
For more information, call HMC’s Oncology Department at (413) 534-2543.