Reducing the wait time to a definitive cancer diagnosis
No one wants to wait long for a definitive diagnosis of cancer, which is why two diagnostic assessment programs at Hotel Dieu Hospital are working hard to ease the way for people facing the possibility of breast or colon cancer.
The Breast Assessment Program (BAP) and Colorectal Diagnostic Assessment Program (CDAP) are making significant strides in minimizing the wait time until patients learn whether they have cancer, comforting news for individuals under stress, anxious for results and grateful for all the support they can get.
“The BAP is meeting high performance standards for quickly moving patients from an abnormal screening to diagnostic testing,” says Julia Niblett, Regional Administrative Director for the South East Regional Cancer Program. “The program is designed to act as a clear pathway for patients who need breast screening and further investigation if an abnormality is spotted.”
Wait times for the various diagnostic procedures—which can include breast ultrasound, diagnostic mammography, biopsy and same-day mammography/ultrasound—now average from one to four days, and the time to a final diagnosis averages 12 days. Currently, the BAP is exceeding most target rates set by Cancer Care Ontario for timeliness of diagnostic assessment.
The program has emerged as a model for new breast assessment programs in our region, says Julia, and has been asked to showcase its practices at provincial and international conferences.
In particular, the BAP has been recognized for its commitment to patient and family-centred care and for enhancing the Nurse Navigator role so that women have a skilled, compassionate guide through their cancer journey.
Patients referred to the Colorectal Diagnostic Assessment Program (CDAP), established in 2010 at Hotel Dieu, are also finding their wait times reduced thanks to a Patient Navigator who coordinates the diagnostic tests patients need before their treatment. She also clarifies information for patients and provides them with education and emotional support. A key task for the Navigator is working together with surgeons, radiologists and other specialists to streamline diagnostic tests and get results.
Her touchstone during that process is always the patient and their family, says Nurse Navigator Patty Halligan. That translates into everything from helping them understand a procedure to booking medical appointments to arranging for transportation to and from hospital. Facing a cancer diagnosis, she says, can be confusing and overwhelming.
“I have to imagine I’m the person with cancer,” she says. “How would I like to be treated? What information would I like to receive? What support would I like to have? Asking these questions ensures a patient-centred approach.”
And the CDAP is working. Wait times for computed tomography (CT) diagnostic tests have now shrunk from two weeks to a mere 48 hours.
“We’re making excellent progress with the CDAP because of strong collaboration amongst those involved—surgeons, endoscopists, nurses and medical administration staff,” says Julia. “The result is shorter wait times and greater patient satisfaction.
“Our goal is to roll out DAPs for other forms of cancer until everyone in the region who is suspected of having cancer receives an accurate diagnosis in the shortest time possible.”
For someone shadowed by cancer, accuracy and speed are vital. So too is the feeling that you and your family are in the loop.
At Hotel Dieu, all three components are being woven together into excellent diagnostic assessment programs. They represent the best kind of partnership—one that brings patients, families and caregivers together to have the best care experience possible.
Glaucoma: the silent thief of vision
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. This disease progresses painlessly and often without symptoms, making it difficult to detect until the damage is permanent. The exact causes of glaucoma are not clearly understood and there is no cure.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, join the Café Scientifique Panel as they discuss the different types of Glaucoma, how it is diagnosed and how research may lead to new and improved treatments for glaucoma patients. The Panel runs from 7-9 pm at Confederation Place Hotel, 237 Ontario St. (at Brock).
The panel features members of the Department of Ophthalmology at Hotel Dieu Hospital, Kingston General Hospital and Queen’s University:
Café Scientifiques are community events about the latest ideas and issues in science and technology in an informal setting. It’s not a lecture! It’s a place for group discussion—and your involvement is the most important ingredient. All community members are invited and refreshments will be served.
- Dr. Sherif El-Defrawy Chair, Department of Ophthalmology
- Dr. Robert Campbell, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University
- Dr. Delan Jinapriya, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University.
To RSVP or for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to view/download the poster for this event
A passion for helping others with eating disorders
Putting a face to eating disorders can be tough—people often deny or hide symptoms such as starving, binge eating, purging and over-exercising. Pam Fountas is the exception.
Not only does she speak publicly about her own struggle with eating disorders but she also works hard to make sure others get help before their illness spirals out of control.
This month—when Eating Disorder Awareness Week is marked Feb. 3-9— her passion to support others will take shape as the EveryBody’s Beautiful Charity Event, a fundraiser for the Adult Eating Disorder Clinic at Hotel Dieu Hospital. Mark your calendar for Friday, Feb. 10 for live entertainment by The Rain Kings, a fashion show and silent auction at Zappas Lounge, 178 Ontario St. Doors open at 7:30 pm and the evening kicks off at 8 pm.
“Last year, our first ever event brought 250 people through the doors and raised $6,000 for the clinic,” says Pam. “This year we're going for a full house and targeting $10,000!”
From her early teens until about the age of 20, Pam battled with an eating disorder that she says was fed by a drive for perfection and success.
“Control and obsession over food and exercise took precedence over everything else in my life,” she says. “Fortunately, an amazing teacher reached out to me at a critical time in my last year of high school.”
The peak onset years for eating disordered behaviours is between ages 15 to 19, says Hotel Dieu psychologist Dr. Susan Buchanan. Dieting, bingeing, self-induced vomiting and using diet pills/laxatives are seen in more than 27 per cent of girls aged 12 to 19.
“Eating disorders are now considered the third most common chronic illness among adolescent girls. They’re serious emotional problems that are manifested through weight and food issues,” she says, “and they have life-threatening consequences.
“We commonly see perfectionism, a drive that can support the person’s success in academics and other activities but also mask how unwell the individual really is.”
In 2011, the adult eating disorder team at Hotel Dieu received more than 150 new referrals; about 50 per cent of them were students from post-secondary institutions in Kingston.
Pam credits private counselling with a wonderful woman with helping her to put her life back on track. She began speaking publicly about good health and body image using the tagline “EveryBody’s Beautiful”. These days, she lives her philosophy of helping others live happy and healthy lives as the Lifestyle Program Coordinator of the Queen’s School of Business Executive Education Centre, and as a lifestyle consultant and personal trainer.
The kind of treatment, therapy and research practiced by both the adult and adolescent eating disorders teams at Hotel Dieu is exactly what Pam aims to support with the February fundraiser.
“Creating a new healthy relationship between food and body isn’t easy but it has been hugely rewarding in every aspect of my life,” she says. “I want to send the message that what matters most is living fully in your own skin and being happy with who you are.”
Tickets for the EveryBody’s Beautiful Charity Event cost $20 and are available at Zappas Lounge, 178 Ontario St. or by calling 613-532-3567.
Click here to view/download the poster for this event
Smart snacking for the Super Bowl
With Super Bowl XLVI just around the corner, it’s time to stock up on wings, chips, dips, pop and more, right? Not so fast, says Hotel Dieu Hospital dietitian Marjan Shalchi, whose playbook on healthy eating tackles healthy ways to savour those touchdowns.
Actually, says Marjan, it’s okay to indulge in the foods you love on special occasions, as long as you go back to following your regular eating and exercise afterwards.
Even with that intention in mind, though, it doesn’t hurt to put into play some standard healthy eating practices. “A good trick is to eat slowly and try waiting 20 minutes before grabbing seconds,’ says Marjan. “It takes that much time for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you’re full.”
Other smart snacking tips from her healthy eating playbook:
- Eat a well-balanced meal before you hit that house party. If you’re full you’ll be less likely to pick at the munchies.
- Bring along your own healthy goodies. If it’s a potluck, make your contribution a healthy choice, such as a veggie tray with salsa (it’s an excellent healthy substitute to creamy, high-fat dips).
- Avoid sitting in arm’s reach of party snacks.
- Drink club soda with a lime twist rather than an alcoholic beverage, or limit yourself to a spritzer (white wine and soda water) or a light beer that packs less alcohol and fewer calories.
- Eat small bite-size portions of your favourite foods so you can enjoy a variety of your favourite foods without overeating.
ASK THE EXPERT: Licking those chapped lips
Dry winter air/wind plays havoc with little (and big) lips because our lips don’t have oil glands or oil to hold in moisture, says Dr. Andrea Moore, a pediatrician in the Children’s Outpatient Centre. Kids with dry lips just keep licking them and then find that moisture whipped away by the wind. It’s that cycle of repeated licking and drying that irritates the skin and causes those uncomfortable chapped lips.
To soothe and prevent chapped lips and noses, Dr. Moore recommends that parents:
- Use a dab of petroleum jelly or a beeswax-based lip balm on little lips and around noses. You might want to skip flavoured balms because they could make kids lick their lips more!
- Dress your child in a scarf or mask to protect the mouth and nose.
- Encourage kids to breathe through the nose—breathing through the mouth can cause dry lips.
- Encourage your child to drink lots of water and consider using a humidifier to help moisten the indoor air in the home.