June 6, 2023
Baptist Health Care expands focus on diagnosis, treatment of breast cancer

Photo: Baptist Health Care

Kelly Ward fits a patient with a scalp cooling cap to reduce hair loss during chemo treatments.

Economic Backbone: Breast Cancer

Baptist Health Care expands focus on diagnosis, treatment of breast cancer

Genetics screening and scalp cooling to reduce hair loss during chemo are among new treatments

Carlton Proctor | 10/25/2022

Kelly Ward, a social worker and breast health navigator, highlights Baptist Health Care’s expanding focus on diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. “We started out with a department of about four people, and now we have 19,” she says. Support services include:

Nutrition: This program includes a full-time dietitian who works with breast cancer patients, their families and the medical team to optimize diet and nutrition while undergoing treatment.

“Our nutrition program is a big part of cancer treatment pre- and post-operative,” Ward says, “and the individual meal plans we create are instrumental in a patient’s tolerance of different types of treatment and their success with those treatments.”

Breast Health Navigation: The program connects newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with a liaison who helps the patient by streamlining and scheduling appointments with physicians and evaluates the patient’s physical, psychological, social and financial needs.

Prevention and Outreach: “We have a number of different breast cancer screening and prevention events in the community throughout the year, including a skin cancer screening event on Pensacola Beach when the Blue Angels fly the second weekend in July,” says Ward. “During that event, we have two dermatologists on site who are doing free skin checks.”

Genetics Program: “We also have a genetics program where patients receive a hereditary cancer risk assessment. Based on that assessment, and what their personalized genetic results are, they're given a very individualized care plan,” Ward says. “If they're at an increased risk for different types of cancer, we are able to follow them through and ensure that they have all of the screening and prevention pieces at the right time in their care.”

Scalp Cooling: Baptist Health Care was the first Northwest Florida health care provider to offer technology that can reduce hair loss in patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast and other types of cancer.

With a specially designed cap, scalp cooling systems lower the temperature of the scalp before, during and after a chemotherapy treatment.

“Many chemotherapy drugs damage hair follicles, which causes hair loss,” Ward says. “Scalp cooling decreases blood flow to the area around the hair follicles, reducing damage and minimizing hair loss. Patients undergoing chemotherapy wear the cap 30 minutes prior to receiving their chemotherapy infusion, during the infusion and for up to 90 minutes following the infusion. Scalp cooling is administered throughout the patient’s treatment regimen.”

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