MedWatch Today: Breast Cancer Services Offered at the Community Cancer Institute

Med Watch Today

The Community Cancer Institute is the Central Valley’s premier comprehensive cancer care center, offering multiple cancer services in a single location, making navigating cancer care easier for patients during an already stressful and challenging time in their lives.

When 41-year old mother of three Arlene Banuelos found out she had breast cancer in April of 2020, she was confused and scared.

“It was nothing that you want to hear, and with COVID and everything, my husband wasn’t there with me, so that was really hard to take in by myself,” said Arlene.

Arlene was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer after finding a lump during a self-examination. She needed to undergo chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

She continued, “I had to take one day at a time. It was overwhelming even meeting with all my doctors the first time and going through my treatment plan. I just thought okay, I just got to focus one day at a time.”

Her plan of action became laser focused with the help of her nurse navigator.

Lynn Smiley is the VP of Cancer & Diagnostic Services at Community Health System. She said, “We have immediate access to a nurse navigation program, the nurse navigators do have experience in breast care and breast cancer and can help patients through not only their journey, through their treatment process, and making sure they make their appointments and their medications are on time. But they can also get education about the disease process and work on symptom management, getting into support groups, really understanding the whole journey from the beginning to end with one point of contact.”

Lynn said patients who walk through the doors at the Community Cancer Institute are given individualized treatment plans tailored to their specific type of cancer.

“We have genetics and a genetic counselor on site. We also have a lymphedema program and a physical therapy and rehabilitation program. We have nutrition support… Most patients with breast cancer have access to a breast specialist surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, again our palliative services and symptom management are really geared toward breast cancer,” stated Lynn.

Arlene spent countless hours at the Community Cancer Institute fighting for her life against breast cancer — but she wasn’t alone.

She said, “I have those memories of feeling sick and everything, but I also have memories of the amazing doctors and nurses that just, I was just so happy to see every time I saw them… I’m just forever grateful for them because anything I needed, they just said, call me let me know what you need.”

The Fresno resident said having the state-of-the-art cancer institute just minutes away from her home was a great blessing, and credits the comprehensive care she received here for where she is today.

“It’s amazing that we have this here in our Valley because, you know, we don’t have to travel very far, and it was all in one building. I would get my, I got my mammogram again and ultrasound. I got my echos here, and it just felt very familiar,” commented Arlene.

“From that, patients feel very secure in their treatment, and also very supported coming to an outpatient clinic such as CCI,” added Lynn.

Arlene finished radiation at the end of 2020, but the pandemic kept her from her celebratory ringing of the bell to symbolize the end of her treatment at the Community Cancer Institute. But, she finally got her chance to ring it during the Pink Patch press conference in October 2021. Now, Arlene has high hopes for a healthy future without breast cancer.

For more information about the Community Cancer Institute, including all the cancer care services available, click here.

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