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June 23, 2011

Swedish women’s cancer center a one-stop shop

  • Program will tie all the components of cancer care into a single setting where nurse “navigators” will guide patients and their families in finding the resources they need.


    The Swedish Cancer Institute on First Hill was the first cancer care facility west of the Mississippi when it opened in 1932.

    Today, it is the largest cancer-treatment program in the Northwest, caring for more patients and more types of cancer than any other organization in Seattle. Expanding treatment options, technologies and clinical trials, especially in the area of women’s cancers, will help the Swedish Cancer Institute move from a regional leader to one of the world’s top resources for cancer care.

    The True Family Women’s Cancer Center at Swedish will offer the next generation of patient-centered care and establish a new and innovative national model, providing women from the Puget Sound region and beyond with comprehensive preventative and diagnostic measures, therapies, access to clinical research studies, and patient-centered education and support activities for breast and gynecological cancer patients.

    The center will be a single portal, offering women facilitated access to all the specialists, skills, tools, information and support they need, from diagnostic screening through survivorship, enabling them to navigate the complexities of the care system, and giving them the best possible chance for a positive outcome.

    Multidisciplinary care

    Rendering by Bruce MacDonald [enlarge]
    The True Family Women’s Cancer Center, an $11 million, 20,000-square-foot cancer-care center on Swedish’s First Hill campus, is slated to open in the spring of 2012.

    The center will provide a warm and welcoming environment and a haven of support for women with cancer and their families.

    A nationally renowned program mixes traditional and alternative care services to create synergies among diverse specialties, enabling a better patient experience and enhancing outcomes through a multidisciplinary approach to care. This new “portal” will allow women coordinated access to screenings and diagnostic imaging, second opinions, procedures, treatments, specialists, research and clinical trials as well as integrated services from naturopathy and massage to cancer support groups. The center will also be equipped with a comprehensive library and resource center.

    You can have a great support system — a loving partner who willingly juggles a demanding job, the housework and the kids’ schedules so you can rest. Coworkers who cover meetings you just can’t make. Friends who take turns chatting or fetching ice while you’re hooked up to your chemotherapy pump. You can get your care at a great medical center with renowned physicians and experienced, compassionate nurses and technicians. A plethora of services, from support groups to art therapy. You can have all of this and still be completely overwhelmed in your fight again cancer.

    “There are so many lost people out there because they just don’t know what to do, especially when they are first diagnosed,” says Martha Harris, a Seattle businesswoman, active community volunteer and cancer survivor.

    “It can be overwhelming not just for patients, but also for your friends, family members and caregivers.”

    A welcome haven

    Thanks to the generosity of many in our community who have donated a total of $10 million to date to build the True Family Women’s Cancer Center, women who have been diagnosed with cancer will now have a welcome haven from which to help manage their cancer care.

    The concept at the heart of the center involves bringing together the myriad components of cancer care into a single setting where a staff of nurse “navigators” will help guide patients and their families in finding the resources they need.

    “More than a third of all Swedish cancer patients are being treated for women’s cancers such as breast, cervical, and uterine cancer — and women make up more than half of Swedish Cancer Institute patients who have been diagnosed with cancers of all kinds,” says Pat Dawson, head of Swedish’s breast cancer program.

    “Some of these women have great support systems in place, and some do not, but thanks to the incredible generosity of this community, all will have access to the care and resources they need, and someone to help navigate them through the process.”

    Martha Harris, who was diagnosed with mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma about seven years ago, refers to the staff of physicians, nurses, technicians and others at the Swedish Cancer Institute as a “family of professionals who care.”

    She gives particular credit to oncologist Hank Kaplan for helping lessen the fear of her cancer diagnosis and helping her to continue believing in herself. Even while fighting her own battle with cancer, she has become a volunteer supporting the creation of the True Family Women’s Cancer Center.

    “I’m so excited to see this new center go forward,” Harris says.

    “The comprehensive care aspect is just huge. And it’s not just for the women who are patients, but for caretakers and family members, too. When you are faced with a new situation, or uncertain about the next step, there is going to be someone there to help guide you. It will be such a great help to the whole family, and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

    Brad Hinthorne is an associate principal at Perkins+Will. He has over 22 years of experience in the field of architecture.

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