For breast cancer care, Barb chose the team approach
Barb Miller didn’t think her breast cancer diagnosis was routine or ordinary, so she didn’t want her care to be routine or ordinary, either. She wanted a coordinated care team with access to a full range of the best and latest treatment options available.
After being diagnosed at her community hospital, Barb looked to University of Iowa Health Care for treatment.
Choosing the right team
“I asked to be referred as soon as my biopsy came back. In my opinion, there was no other choice. We are so lucky to have a quality university hospital in our state, where they do research and share information. That was a big part of my decision.”
At Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center—Iowa’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center—cancer experts work in teams called multidisciplinary oncology groups. Each team includes specialists in cancer medicine, surgery, radiology, pathology, and research, along with nurses, nurse navigators, and genetic counselors, all working together to consider every angle as they create a treatment plan based on an individual patient’s needs.
Game plan reduces stress
After meeting with surgical oncologist Ingrid Lizarraga, MD, Barb immediately knew she would have a say in her own care.
“I’m extremely pleased with Dr. Lizarraga,” Barb says. “She listens to everything I have to say and takes everything into consideration.”
And the coordinated care approach extends beyond medicine to address the patient’s whole experience. Jean Arndt, RN, certified oncology nurse and breast patient navigator, planned Barb’s first visit to University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics so that she would have to make as few trips as possible.
“From the very start, I was impressed by the organization,” Barb says. “My appointments were basically all made during my first visit. We live an hour and a half away, but that drive is no big deal if you know that they have a game plan. It really took the stress off of me.”
More options—all in one place
In addition to receiving the key dates for all of her tests and her surgery, Barb was also scheduled to meet with genetic counselor. University of Iowa Health Care’s genetic counselors assist patients as they navigate the ever-increasing number of genetic tests available.
The counselors help patients assemble a medical and family history and advise them as they process crucial information revealed by the tests, such as how to manage the patient’s future cancer risk as well as any cancer risk for the patient’s family.
“They get results back from about 28 different genes that they test,” Barb says. “I thought that was amazing. My local hospital does the simple BRACA test, the two genes. I had no idea there was more extensive testing available.”
Following removal of the tumor and reconstructive surgery, Barb also participated in a pain-management clinical trial conducted by psychologist Katie Hadlandsmyth, PhD, clinical assistant professor of anesthesia. Clinical trials are tests of promising new therapies not yet on the market that can benefit patients now. As an academic research center, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center offers hundreds of these nationwide trials, many of them led by University of Iowa researchers.
Swinging back into life
Barb has returned to her normal, active life, with very few limitations. When she’s not behind the desk at work, she’s out gardening, working on her husband’s family farm, and even swinging an ax.
“I do a lot of wood cutting,” she says. “On the farm and for my dad as well—cutting and splitting wood.”
She’s thankful for the University of Iowa Health Care team that worked with her so she could remain healthy enough to do it all.
“We’ve had such an awesome experience with everybody that we’ve come in contact with,” Barb says. “The doctors and nurses—everybody was great.”