Since its launch on Sept. 1, 2015, Ascension Via Christi’s Cancer Outreach and Risk Assessment program has provided genetic counseling and screening to nearly 4,000 men and women.
Approximately two out of every 10 of those patients have tested positive for various genetic mutations that required additional testing or follow up to reduce their cancer risk.
For Maggie Ward, DNP, APRN, AGCNS-BC, OCN, the advanced practice oncology nurse and board-certified genetics practitioner who coordinates the now 7-year-old program, it is tremendously rewarding work.
“Our program empowers people to take actions that can prevent or lead to earlier detection of cancer and possibly save their lives,” says Ward, who works under the direction of Cancer Center of Kansas oncologist Pavan Reddy, MD, and Ascension Medical Group Via Christi breast care specialist Patty Tenofsky, MD.
Since its launch, the program has begun offering in-person genetic counseling at Ascension Via Christi's hospital in Manhattan and virtually to the patients the healthcare ministry serves throughout Kansas.
As many as 1 in 10 Americans have a hereditary risk for cancer. CORA, the only comprehensive program in south-central Kansas, offers screening and genetic counseling to anyone whose personal/family history indicates that they are at higher risk for developing breast and other cancers.
In addition to genetic counseling and screening, CORA employs four oncology nurse navigators, who specialize in radiation therapies, head and neck cancers, lung cancer screening, rectal cancers and general cancer disciplines. These navigators assist patients with appointment scheduling, referrals, medication management and health education.
Other avenues of care improvement and tracking are CORA’s Cancer Wellness and Lymphedema Screening programs. With Cancer Wellness, patients are evaluated by a personal trainer to develop a customized exercise program. The Lymphedema Screening program measures patients’ extracellular fluid level before treatment to set a baseline. During and after treatment, patients have quarterly follow-ups to determine if significant changes are occurring so interventional treatment can be initiated to reverse the early stages of lymphedema.
"I am grateful for the support we have had from our leadership as we identify gaps in the cancer care support services available in our community and develop programs and services to meet the needs of patients and families whose lives have been affected by cancer," says Keisha Humphries, director of Oncology Services at Ascension Via Christi.
Click here to learn more about the services offered at the Ascension Via Christi Cancer Center.