Nurse helps patients navigate cancer

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Sue Besinger

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while pink ribbons, pink M&M’s and pink apparel will be seen everywhere, Madison County Hospital also is spreading pink to educate and generate awareness about breast cancer locally.

According to statistics from the Ohio Department of Health, Madison County has the highest breast cancer incidence rate of the 88 counties in Ohio (Ohio Cancer Incidence Surveillance System, 1998-2002). These statistics also indicate that Madison County also has a high mortality rate from breast cancer.

Madison County Hospital and the hospital Foundation are teaming up to raise $2 million dollars to turn the tide on breast cancer locally and improve the county’s statistics. The money raised will stay in Madison County and provide education to women about the importance of early detection, to expand diagnostic and treatment capabilities at the hospital, and set up an endowment fund for uninsured patients.

Earlier this year, the hospital received a $46,165 grant from the Columbus Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure for a community breast cancer education and awareness program.  With the assistance of the Komen grant, the hospital was able to create a position for a patient navigator at the hospital’s Breast Care Center. Sue Besinger, oncology nurse, was appointed to fill the role.

Besinger has worked as an oncology nurse for almost 20 years. Besinger was formerly with Mid-Ohio Oncology/Hematology in Columbus for 10 years before coming to Madison County Hospital. She started her career as a nurse at Mount Carmel.

As patient navigator, Besinger assists breast cancer patients in exploring treatment options, making appointments with specialists, and even accompanying patients on doctor visits to help take notes. She also is working hard to expand breast health education programs for women in Madison County. All of Besinger’s services are free of charge to the patient.

Besinger and the patient begin their relationship when Besinger is informed of an abnormal mammogram. She then calls the patient to introduce herself and let them know she will be a diligent resource for them throughout the process—whether their lump is malignant or benign. Besinger knows that newly diagnosed cancer patients can feel overwhelmed, so she does her best to streamline the process and to help them navigate the health care system.

“When I first talk to the patient, there is so much I want to tell them,” Besinger says.

She notes that all her patients have access to her cell phone and pager, so she can be reached whenever they feel unsure or scared, have question about their treatment or how their body is responding to the therapies.

Besinger is also available to patients who do not have breast cancer. She offers her knowledge, expertise, and attentive ear to any woman who wants to talk about breast health. She can teach women how to perform their self breast exam, provide clinical self exams, or talk about what to do if there is a history of breast cancer or how to get tested for the breast cancer gene.

“An important part of my work is educating the community,” Besinger explains. “Women need to schedule their routine mammograms every year and perform their breast self exams every month. Early detection is the best defense.”

Mammograms are the best tool in early detection. Besinger notes that the mammography department has extended their hours to accommodate early morning and late evening schedules. Every woman who schedules their mammogram or contacts Besinger to learn how to perform a breast self exam in the month of October will receive a free pocket calendar. The calendar contains helpful health tips and information on the latest health tests and screenings.

In addition to enhanced treatment services, the hospital is generating support for their initiative through Pink Fridays. The hospital encourages employees to wear pink every Friday. Local businesses are also showing their support by participating in Pink Fridays. Stanley Electric, National City Bank in London, New York Life Insurance, A Cut Above Hair Salon in London, and FOE 950 are already encouraging em-ployees and mem-bers to wear pink t-shirts on Fridays.

For more information on the hospital breast cancer initiative, call 740-845-7050. To talk with Sue Besinger, patient navigator, call 740-845-7884.

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