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How Can Lung Cancer Patients Ensure Quality Care No Matter Location?

How Can Lung Cancer Patients Ensure Quality Care No Matter Location? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Now that lung cancer patients have access to in-person and telemedicine visits, how can they ensure quality care no matter location? Experts Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Olugbenga Okusanyashare their advice on maximum travel times to in-person providers, when telemedicine visits make sense, and how to ensure you get the best fit for you as a patient. 

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Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

You mentioned telehealth, and we know that one of the barriers to receiving care, and you’ve indicated that in terms of having access to a multi-disciplinary team, having access to thoracic surgeons as opposed to general surgeons. So, we know that that is impacted by where we live, and that often our geographic location can actually be a barrier to the receipt of quality care, so I’d love for you to just talk a little bit about how patients who may be in more remote locations can make sure that they are also receiving appropriate care for their lung cancer. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Yeah, I think this is a very substantive challenge, I think this is one of the holes in healthcare, there are these regions in the country where you just are not going to have access to any number of surgical sub-specialists or radiation oncologists, or lung cancer specific oncologists. I think that is a really big challenge. I think we have actually learned through the pandemic that the physical barriers really are not the reason to not get the best care, so I think those patients should be exquisitely interested in telehealth and in phone calls, and I think most healthcare systems now, because the reimbursements have been approved for telehealth and actually now built infrastructure to support it as an ongoing concept. So now, if you are a patient that’s in Arizona and you want to talk to a doctor who’s in New Jersey, you can do that, you can make that happen. If you find someone, you Google them, you find a friend in that area who knows someone, you can call their office and say, “I want to have a telehealth visit.” And as long as you have broadband Internet and a phone, you can do it. You can have that conversation. 

So, I would advocate for people to really make sure that you at least feel like people in the sort of local regional area that you can perhaps get to maybe two, three hours away. But you can imagine a scenario where you can get there, you can try and establish some level of care and some level of rapport with them. I think that’s something that has really opened, has been one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

I was going to say the exact same thing. That is one…there haven’t been a lot of positive things, but that certainly is one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic, is this surge, and it’s not that we already had the capability, but it certainly was not being used to its maximum capacity. I appreciate that. So, speaking of telemedicine and COVID, I think one of the challenges that patients and often care partners have is understanding when is a telemedicine or telehealth visit appropriate versus when do you actually need to go see that doctor in-person, so…can you help clarify that? 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Yeah, so I think in general, even if you start with the telehealth is, I think there’s very little downside to telehealth for almost anyone in general, because a lot of the information can be garnered from the patient record, from their scans. I think in general; it gives you 85 percent of what you need out of that interaction, and it may be more convenient for the patient, a lot of times it’s actually more convenient for the doctors, doctors have now found ways to work from home. They do have to have their clinic from home, it’s a much more relaxed environment than more efficient. I think there are times like for instance, I have to make decisions about offering surgery to patients who I consider to be moderate or high risk, I think there is a benefit and having that patient come and see me in the office because they have to somehow pass what we call the eyeball test, and that is a little bit of where this disparity comes in in lung cancer surgery, because it depends on whose eyeball is looking at you, making your determination about what they think is going to happen with you in surgery. 

I remember…actually one of my favorite patients ever. She had data that did not look like she would tolerate surgery, everything about her data did not look favorable. And I saw her, I remember seeing her in-person, and you could see the spark in her eye and energy that she had, and I said, “You know what, we’re going to do it.” And she did great, she did phenomenally well. And that is a case where if you’re in the population of patients that may be slightly more moderate, slightly more high-risk, and you need someone to really look you in the eye and you say, “I’m going to do what it takes to get through this.” I think that’s the patient where the in-touch, in-person visit really is that extra touch that can be benefited. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Wow, I love what you said about the spark in her eye and also how you connected that to health disparities, and I don’t know the race or ethnicity of the patient that you’re describing, but we certainly know that that makes a difference, and I just wonder if that had been a different physician, would they have seen that same spark? And I think it just goes back to what we were talking about earlier, and the importance of finding a physician or health care provider with whom you connect, someone that actually respects you, someone that listens to you and sees you as a whole person. So, the fact that you were willing to go beyond that data on her chart, which screamed, This is a poor surgical candidate, met her in-person, and something about her let you know that she was going to be okay. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

And that’s why in medicine and surgery are still art at the end of the day, it’s still an art. You make decisions, best informed decisions, but there’s a lot of it that is still really special and mystical in a way. And I think having that in-person interactions will let you practice that and it’s exactly what you said, you want to have a really nice relationship with the physician, especially anyone that’s going to be doing anything that might be invasive or dangerous because for the most part, you meet someone for 45 minutes and then you sign up for what could be a life-threatening event. So, you, the physician and the patient should feel really good about that interaction and whatever that energy is, it’s really important, it’s a little bit kind of sacred, I think, and I think it’s really valuable to invest in that if you don’t like the surgeon, you really don’t feel like it’s a good fit or you don’t like your oncologist, find someone else. You’ll do better in the long run, for sure. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That is so incredibly important. I agree, 100 percent. So much of healing is beyond just the nuts and bolts of the medical care that we provide, or in your case, the surgical care, there’s so much more to that, that’s not really well studied, but that relationship and that connection is key. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Critical, and that’s not to say that necessarily the person has to be like the warmest, friendliest, the most fun person you ever met, some people prefer a more yes ma’am, no ma’am, clear-cut, well-defined boundaries of a relationship. Some people prefer a big hug and a laugh and a joke. So if you’re getting what you need, that’s exactly what you need. And if you’re not getting what you need, you should think about your other options 

What Are the Barriers to Lung Cancer Care?

What Are the Barriers to Lung Cancer Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 What are some barriers to lung cancer care? Experts Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Olugbenga Okusanyadiscuss factors that impact lung cancer care and some ways that care access can be improved for better care. 

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Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

We know that there are many factors that can negatively impact outcomes for patients and families facing a lung cancer diagnosis, including things like social stigma for smoking, geographic location, socioeconomic status, insurance and access to care, financial hardships and access to transportation. So, my question to you, Dr. Okusanya is, what are some of the barriers that both lung cancer patients and their care partners face when they are seeking care? 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

First of all, thank you very much for putting a spotlight on lung cancer care, we really need more people to help us treat this really terrible disease. 

There are a number of barriers for our patients in order to get the best care possible. Number one, we actually find this diagnosis, we find that a lot of patients, have long nodules that have been seen because maybe they got a chest X-ray or a CAT scan for some other reason, and maybe they don’t get followed up on because they don’t have a steady source of healthcare, they don’t have a PCP or someone who regularly follows up on their health information. We have trouble also sometimes getting patients in the appropriate diagnostic studies that they need, oftentimes, we find patients that may show up in the hospital that have a significant problem and they may need a special kind of CAT scan or a biopsy, and they simply do not have the resources to get to said CAT scan or get to said biopsy, which is critical in making the appropriate diagnosis so we can get them to the right therapy. One of the biggest things that you mentioned is finding a specialist in terms of all aspects of lung cancer care, whether it is surgery, medical oncology, or radiation oncology, there are medical practitioners that mostly specialize in lung cancer care, and because of that, they’re going to have access to different resources, they’re going to think differently about the disease process and they’re going to approach each patient differently because of the disease process. So, finding someone who really thinks and works in the lung cancer space all the time, I think it’s a barrier to patients getting really good care. 

We also find that one, cancer care has a lot of hurdles, apart from proper CAT scans, biopsies, work-ups, actual interventions, there are a lot of steps that patients have to go, to get from even just getting a diagnosis to getting treatment and having patients move through that period of time, which is we hope usually four to six weeks in a sort of step-by-step manner can be extremely eliminating. So we really are trying to condense those things so patients can meet all the specialists, they need to get all the tests that they need to get in maybe one or two concise visits and then get into care, and lastly, as you mentioned, not having access to what we call multidisciplinary conferences is a limitation because there are more and more nuanced ways that lung cancer is presenting and being treated, that needs to be discussed between a surgeon and radiation oncologists and the medical oncologists, preferably all in the same setting, all at the same time. So having access to those clinics where we can have a really high-level discussion about the best thing to do for a patient, I feel is a significant barrier, especially for our patients with advanced disease 

How Can Prostate Cancer Patients and Providers Help Ensure Quality Care?

How Can Prostate Cancer Patients and Providers Help Ensure Quality Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can prostate cancer patients and providers help ensure quality care? Host Dr. Nicole Rochester asks Dr. Petros Grivas to share insights about available patient resources and ways that providers can help extend improved prostate cancer diagnostics and treatments to patients for better care.

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How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live?


Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

So, Dr. Grivas, how can we ensure that a patient’s geographic location doesn’t dictate the quality of care that they receive? 

Dr. Grivas: 

A very important question for sure, and I think as you point it out, we have touched upon this before, but I think it is definitely much more to be said and done. More importantly, I think the location has to do with multiple differences in social constructs, right? The location of the distance from a cancer center with expertise is one thing at the time to get to the cancer center is related to that, and also the social support that the patient may have, if for example, a particular treatment, for example, a clinical trial, the requires a weekly visit to the cancer center, is that the feasible thing for the patient who lives miles and miles away in the rural areas of Oklahoma or somewhere else. Can we design clinical trials that are more friendly to these scenarios that require less frequent visits. Can we provide, if possible, funding for housing closer to the cancer center, and there are examples of cancer centers doing that. They provide temporary housing for the patient to be able to be close to the cancer center, so they don’t even worry about going back and forth across the state lines sometimes. 

The other thing, of course, is insurance coverage, and again, this can have some relation to location, and it’s something we have to think about, how can we help our patients who have significant co-pays because of the recommended insurance to that location being supported by foundation or all other funds that the cancer center or the state, or again, other foundations, we have. The other issues about diagnostics and treatments, there has been some interesting discussion about particularly prostate cancer, about access to what we call next generation sequencing, which is a diagnostic test aiming to profile or fingerprint the cancer DNA to look for particular mutations that the cancer may have that may lead to a particular treatment options. 

 If, for example, mutation A is present, can we use a drug X that might be relevant in that context of a mutation and a recent data that was presented at ASCO 2021 showed that if you look at those mutations, they’re not very different between, for example, white and Black patients, there are similar types and frequencies of mutations. What is different is access to the test and, of course, access to the therapy of the test. So, I think we have to do a better job bringing ourselves to the community, extending our opportunities to the patient to get connected with the healthcare system, and they’ll build bridges to bring the patient and closer to the cancer center offering those tests. Work with patient navigation to help patients understand the significant value of the follow-up, but also provide them with a way that there’s equitable access to diagnostics and treatments. 

How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live?

How Can I Get the Best Prostate Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can prostate cancer patients ensure they get quality care even if they live in rural areas? Noted experts, Dr. Petros Grivas and Dr. Yaw Nyame share advice and discuss how to receive optimal care no matter your geography or financial status. Learn about resources and digital tools you can utilize to ensure better care no matter where you live. 

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Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Hello and welcome. I’m Dr. Nicole Rochester, your host for today’s Patient Empowerment Network program, and we are so happy that you’ve tuned in. Today we’re going to be talking about how prostate cancer patients can truly get the best care no matter where you and your family live, we’re going to talk about things like how can I remove roadblocks in my care to gain access to state-of-the-art treatment? Will my insurance limit me if I wanna get a second opinion as a care partner, how do I best advocate for my loved one and is a clinical right for me? The answers to some of these questions we receive revolve around awareness, feeling empowered to ask questions and connecting to the right resources at the right time. In this program we’ll be learning just that as we meet our experts. It is my honor and privilege to be joined by Dr. Petros Grivas, Associate Professor and clinical director of the genitourinary cancer program at the University of Washington. And Dr. Yaw Nyame, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Washington. Thank you so much for joining us today, gentlemen. 

Dr. Nyame:

Thank you for having us. 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you so much for having us. It’s an honor and pleasure to be with you. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

It is my honor as well. Please remember that this program is not a substitute for seeking medical care, so please be sure to connect with your healthcare team on the best options for you. Now, let’s take a few minutes to set the stage and give a brief overview of barriers in the way of achieving equitable prostate cancer treatment. Doctors Nyame and Grivas, we know that location, socioeconomic status, insurance, financial hardships, lack of urologists in rural areas, geographic distance services and access to transportation all play an important role in the outcomes for patients and families facing a prostate cancer diagnosis. So, I wanna start with our first question, and we’ll start with you, Dr. Grivas, what are some of the barriers that prostate cancer, let me do that one again. What are some of the barriers, both prostate cancer patients and their care partners face when seeking care? 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you so much. These are really important discussions, and I’m glad we’re doing this program. I think you covered a number of those barriers in your introduction, and I would definitely agree with all of them because many of them are important. The number of those factors have to do with the location of the patient as you mentioned, patients regardless of race, if they live in a rural community, then they have less communication or contact with a medical care system, and that’s in all reality there’s data suggesting that a cruelty to states this access to care issue is becoming more and more noticeable, and the distance involved in some ways to get a medical facility, let alone a specialized medical facility, specialized in-person culture. It can be a big problem. The other issue that we have seen many times, again, in some communities more than others, is healthcare literacy and the preventive mindset as I call it, and that again, can transpire across races, but maybe even more intense in some of the populations. And when I talk about health literacy and preventive mindset, it’s about the relationship, an individual of the healthcare system, and sometimes the distrust, right, that may take place and also the, I would say comfort that the patient has to enter and access a medical care system that they can allow the providers to take care of them, and these are real, I would say, examples that we have seen based on having this concern of letting sales be taken care of in a medical system, competing problems and barriers include financial contraction, that’s a big one. 

Insurance coverage. We know that patients who… I would say social determinants of health may have not very good coverage, and this may be restricting award medical facilities that they can access, and also the cost of care, co-pays, for example, when diagnostic tests or acute interventions for orderly available agents can be a big carrier and no compliance can be diminished with co-pay. Of course, you mentioned many other factors, transportation issues, finding coverage of work, getting day off work can be a problem for some patients, and also the cost of transportation or lodging or parking sometimes can be a problem or even the anxiety to go to a big city and deal with a traffic of course. So there are many factors, of course, but I think we have to have a systematic approach how to catalog them and address them in a comprehensive way, and I think there are some improvements and we can talk about them today, for example, telemedicine and others, but I think the list is long, and we have to keep an open mind and engaged patient advocates in cataloging those barriers. Maybe Dr. Nyame can comment further in that regard.  

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you so much, Dr. Grivas, yeah, you covered a lot of ground, and I appreciate that Dr. Nyame I’d love for you to either add to that list or maybe expand based on your perspectives. 

Dr. Nyame:

Dr. Grivas didn’t leave me with much to cover, which is great. I think what you hear, in his answer to that question is that this is really a social issue, and I think when we talk about inequities in health, we have to recognize that race in this country, and many places around the world really reflects a social construct, and so the things that really predict how people are going to be able to utilize our services and how well they’re going to do reflect that greater social context, and so to me… You have to meet the patient where they are. And the strength of the relationships that you can build between the healthcare system and the communities that are at risk, especially the ones that have the highest disproportionate risk of bad outcomes or not being able to utilize services is important. And so the barriers include all the things we talked about, but a lot of them that we’ve talked about have been very much healthcare-facing, so we talk about transportation, what we mean that in the source of transportation to our facilities or we talk about money, but we talk about money and the ability to pay for our services, we also miss the other ways in which those social barriers and factors impact the ability to prioritize one’s health. 

And so that is a really big problem. And something that we also need to put in the context of this conversation. I think when we take the covers off and we really see what our patients’ lives are like, sometimes we recognize that it’s not just about their ability to utilize the services that we provide, but that there are bigger issues at hand that also need addressing. Those aren’t in Dr. Grivas and I’s domain, but I think we have to understand those things to meet our patients where they are. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, I really appreciate that both of you have really focused on those social determinants of health. I appreciate you mentioning racism, and the fact that the patients being able to prioritize their health, I think historically in medicine, we have blamed our patients for not taking care of themselves, so to speak, without a full appreciation of all of these barriers that both of you have just identified, so I really appreciate that. 

So we started slightly to talk about solutions, but let’s shift to solutions and what are some of the solutions that you all recommend for some of these barriers, and like you said, as physicians, a lot of that is going to be out of your purview, but I’d love for each of you to suggest any solutions for our patients and care who may be facing some of these barriers, so this time we’ll start with you, Dr. Nyame.  

Dr. Nyame: 

This is an area where I think we need to do better in collecting information to understand where the need is, and so I think there is a very much a need for translational health services or patient-centered research, where we do the simple thing, if I was gonna open up a lemonade stand in the middle of Seattle, I’d probably ask a few people what their needs are around lemonade before I open the stand, and I think in medicine, we often offer our services and solutions without having had that simple conversation of What are the needs? I think in addition to that, we have to understand that equitable care might mean offering additional services for certain populations, so for us at our cancer center, for instance, we’ve recently instituted a patient navigator program, something that’s been around for a long time, and other sites but it’s allowing us to do that, go through that exercise of providing some equitable care by helping people coordinate appointments, find their way to financial resources that might support them, and just to be there as a support in the very difficult time of having a new cancer diagnosis, so I think that’s a well-proven and well-established method for helping people get access to care. 

The other thing I’ll add is that we make decisions, I think as humans, we make decisions through community, and sometimes that’s our partner, sometimes that somebody at the gym, sometimes that’s a co-worker, and there are a lot of really fantastic patient advocacy networks that exist that can help people find this new community, and I think cancer patients share a very unique bond and in a very unique way to communicate with one another because they’re living through this particular diagnosis, and so for in the case of prostate cancer, especially prostate cancer in black men, you have the Prostate Health Education Network, you have Zero Cancer, you have Us TOO, you have the Prostate Cancer Foundation, probably leaving some advocacy groups off and I’m probably gonna get in trouble, but I think that there’s that opportunity to reach out to others and just learn… What did you go through, what worked for you? How can I meet my goals of care through just conversation with other patients and survivors, and I’ll try to leave something for Dr. Grivas to the conversation ’cause clearly I could go on and on. 

Nicole Rochester: 

Dr. Grivas? 

Dr. Grivas: 

I’ll tell you that I am learning every day from Dr. Nyame. He’s fantastic work in this important topic, and I think he covered the answer so well, if I can just add a few more things just to expand on this sorts. And these are things that already he’s doing in his programmatic development in our institution as well. I think one of the important things we have to acknowledge is the issue of systemic racism and implicit bias that I think you referred to Dr. Rochester. I think the more we talk about, the more transparent we are with it, the better because we can think about what are unconscious or subconscious thoughts that we may have, you know this patient doesn’t care about themselves. Why should we go the extra mile to help them? We should go the extra mile to help them because this patient may have less inside of the situation, and they need more resources and as a healthcare system, we should try to earn that patient, right? We should not let that patient go because every patient matters, right? And I think every life matters. I think that’s important. I think overall a systemic issue to discuss. The other thing is getting our sense of the community, and I think the examples of studies we have done in the clinic and other areas that we try to utilize the wisdom and the help of local leaders in those communities for example, underserved populations go to local churches or barber shops or gyms as Dr. Nyame mentioned and collaborate, work with the local leaders and see how we can have a dialogue with the patients there. How can we establish this trust that may be missing, how we can convey that health is important, and prevention is important, and treatment is important, how can we help with financial constraints, right? How can we get patients to the cancer center without them having to worry about how to get there, how can we reach out and have screening in the present county screening in the community, if it’s indicated then access to care telemedicine, and that brings an issue, do the patients have equipment for telemedicine, a computer, we take it for granted, but it may not be. So given those resources, organizing some local centers with this Men’s Health Day, just to get people in a room and educate them, but also learning from them what are the barriers to take it into account, not talk down to them, but learning with them and from them. 

The other thing is research and that will have to do a better job to include an offer in an equitable manor clinical trials to our patients including patients from different races and we are doing, I think, overall, okay, but we are not doing enough, we have to do better in order to provide this opportunities to our patients and the role of patient navigators is great. We can set examples, and we have patients who feel much more comfortable when they have a patient navigator. Sometimes if it happens to be in the same race with a patient then the patient feels more comfortable. They have someone that they can trust or it will be easier to talk to, and I think we should definitely improve and work harder to provide access to research inequitable manor to our patients. The last point I would say is, patient co-pay assistance programs and foundations, I think we can definitely include more resources to our patients, philanthropy, foundation support and state programs in order to give those patients the resource they need again to achieve this holy grail, which is equitable health care. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

I love that you all are focusing on equity, which as we know, is giving every patient what they need in order to achieve their optimal health, and as both of you have stated, that’s very different than equality, and so this concept that we really have to meet our patients where they are, and that some of our patients may be a little bit more than others, and that’s okay, in fact, that’s really what we have to do in order to eliminate these disparities, so I really appreciate both of your thoughts and that’s a great lead in to our next segment, which is really focused on racial and ethnic disparities, and both of you have kind of touched on this a little bit already, so we know that there are as with every other type of cancer and every other disease, there are significant health disparities with BIPOC patients, and so Dr. Nyame, I’d love for you to talk about specifically with prostate cancer, some of the disparities that you see in your practice and in your research, and then what are some things that patients of color can do to protect themselves from these inequities? 

Dr. Nyame: 

This is a very important topic for me, it’s something that I am very passionate about, and as Dr. Grivas alluded to am doing a lot of research on, and I think the statistics are so grey. Black men are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. So the average man in the United States has a one and nine lifetime risk of being diagnosed prostate cancer, that’s probably one in six or one in seven black men. Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to men of other races and ethnicity in the United States, and a lot of this is driven by the social milieu and factors that we’ve talked about today. What troubles me is when we talk about these statistics, I fear that that in of itself is crippling for some black men. If I have this diagnosis and I’m not gonna do well. Why should I do anything? And I can tell you that the literature and all the research that we do, and it gets refreshed every 10 years or so, someone will do the study and it shows that if we have Black men and men of other races or white men, and we give them the same treatment for the same level of disease, that the outcomes are actually very similar, and a better way to state that for me is if you’re diagnosed early and you get the treatment that you should get irrespective of your race, it seems like outcomes can be quite good. 

And so a lot of what we see with regards to prostate cancer inequities are driven by lower treatment rates and probably an impact of lower quality care. And when I say that, what does that mean? Well, do you get your care at places like the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance or the Cleveland Clinic, or John Hopkins or MD Anderson, where you have providers who are expert and do a lot of prostate cancer care, or are you being seen by someone in the community who I guarantee is an excellent clinician, but doesn’t have the same resources and the same expertise in the sense of being focused on one disease process or one set of cancers, for instance, we are genital urinary cancer specialist, a fancy term for being cancer doctors of the plumbing system, but because that’s all we focus on, we know a lot about the process we know what works, and we know what the standards of care. So I think when you can get the right treatment at the right time, and you can get it from teams that are really specialized in this, that our outcomes are going to not care about what your self-defined races when you check box. 

The problem is, how do we get… How do we close that gap that exists currently that doesn’t allow people to get that care, and I think we’ve talked about rurality, so I think… I grew up in Oklahoma, and I could see that if you are in the sticks in Oklahoma and you’re not near a cancer center, like something down in Dallas, that your care might be impacted, but… Especially if you have to travel a lot and it’s expensive. But we have major US cities like Los Angeles where you may share a zip code with a millionaire but use very different health services, so it’s not always a reflection of how far you have to travel, but it also is factors about how welcoming institutions that provide high quality care can feel for populations like our BIPOC populations who sometimes have been the subject of medical experimentation and lower quality care sometimes because they might not get shuttled to the same services historically, and I think we have a lot to undo to rebuild the trust that is required to have black men not be fearful of seeking care from us, but be trusting. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, and certainly the COVID pandemic has really brought that whole mistrust and distrust to light, so I appreciate you touching on that. We’re going to move to talk about treatment access, and I love how this conversation is flowing because so many of these elements have already been discussed, so we’re gonna talk about treatment access for prostate cancer patients, and we know that sometimes the barriers that patients face, as you mentioned actually limit their access to quality care and to appropriate treatment. So, Dr. Grivas, how can we ensure that a patient’s geographic location doesn’t dictate the quality of care that they receive? 

 Dr. Grivas: 

A very important question for sure, and I think as you point it out, we have tasked upon this before, but I think it is definitely much more to be said and done. More importantly, I think the location has to do with multiple differences in social constructs, right? The location of the distance from a cancer center with expertise is one thing at the time to get to the cancer center is related to that, and also the social support that the patient may have, if for example, a particular treatment, for example, a clinical trial, the requires a weekly visit to the cancer center, is that the feasible thing for the patient who lives miles and miles away in the rural areas of Oklahoma as Dr. Nyame mentioned or somewhere else. Can we design a clinical trial that are more friendly to these scenarios that require less frequent visits. Can we provide, if possible, funding for housing closer to the Cancer Center, and there are examples of cancer centers doing that. They provide temporary housing for the patient to be able be close the cancer center, so they don’t even worry about going back and forth across the state lines sometimes. 

The other thing, of course, is insurance coverage, and again, this can have some relation to location, and it’s something we have to think about, how can we help our patients who have significant copays because of the recommended insurance to that location being supported by foundation or all other funds that the cancer center or the state, or again, other foundations, we have. The other issues about diagnostics and treatments, there has been some interesting discussion about particularly prostate cancer, about access to what we call next generation sequencing, which is a diagnostic test aiming to profile or fingerprint the cancer DNA to look for particular mutations that the cancer may have that may lead to a particular treatment options. 

If, for example, mutation A is present, can we use a drug X that might be relevant in that context of a mutation and a recent data that was presented at ASCO 2021 showed that if you look at those mutations, they’re not very different between, for example, white and Black patients, there are similar types and frequencies of mutations. What is different is access to the test and, of course, access to the [inaudible] of the test. So I think we have to do a better job bringing ourselves to the community, extending our opportunities to the patient to get connected with the healthcare system, and they’ll build bridges to bring the patient and closer to the cancer center offering those tests. Work with patient navigation to help patients understand the significant value of the follow-up, but also provide them with a way that there’s equitable access to diagnostics and treatments. 

 Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you, thank you so much, Dr. Grivas and you’ve touched on something that I’m going to ask Dr. Nyame to elaborate on which is these fancy tests and these new technologies and things, and what we know is that a lot of times the patient themselves, if they are not aware of these particular tests, then because of all the disparities that we’ve talked about, they may not even be offered to them. And so a question for you, Dr. Nyame, how can we empower patients so that they don’t feel limited in their care, and how do we make them aware of these treatment options and diagnostic options that Dr. Grivas just spoke of? 

Dr. Nyame: 

You know that’s very challenging because Dr. Grivas, and I see this in our clinical practice, we have patients who are very savvy, that’ll come in and say that I’ve heard that there’s a PSM in San Francisco. Do you have it in Seattle? If you don’t have it in Seattle, I’m gonna go to San Francisco. And for every patient I had like that, who might be, Hey, have you read this latest article, I can have someone who has no idea of what’s going on with their diagnosis, and so how we create opportunities to bring those patients and know very little up to somewhere close, maybe not quite to the demanding the PSMA or a fancy scan level, but sophisticated enough to feel empowered in their health decision-making as something where I think we need to do research because we know that certain tools, navigation, advocacy groups can help in that arena, but I think that we need to understand what the tools are that patients want. What’s interesting is when you query patients, which we’ve done in a study and you say, What are the most pressing issues for you in your prostate cancer diagnosis, whether it’s in the localized setting or in the advanced or metastatic setting, the one thing that has resonated over and over again, irrespective of race is I need help making decisions, I need tools that will make it, me more efficient in how I make my decisions. And so I think without punting the answer too much, we need to do better, and I think part of that starts with listening. I do think that providers can be trained to provide that information in a more efficient manner. We do not… We as clinicians, are built into a system where the number of patients we see really correlates with how we get paid, and there’s not a doctor that doesn’t go to work excited to educate and build relationships with patients, that’s not the case, but there is a time crunch and I feel like in situations where there is a bigger gap and knowledge and understanding, we often don’t have enough time and built into our day to have the discussion, so for me, for a lot of my patients who I feel like have a lower understanding of what’s going on with regards to their prostate cancer diagnosis, it’s really important for me to build into our visit the understanding that whatever we don’t cover can be addressed at a later time and that we don’t have to make a decision with that at particular visit. So when I think about this, it’s sort of like your favorite barbershop or your favorite grocery store, your favorite sandwich place, the relationships matter. 

And I think when we talk about empowering patients to be advocates for themselves in their clinical visits, I think there needs to be an understanding from patients that if it doesn’t feel right, that they have options and to take their time in the decision. Prostate cancer, unlike other diseases, that Dr. Grivas and I treat doesn’t have to have the dial turn to 10 or 11 right away, and we need to make a decision because time is extremely sensitive, even in our most aggressive localized settings, which is what I treat, we have the opportunity to take weeks, if not months, to come to a decision. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you, thank you so much, I appreciate that. And certainly as a physician who’s also a health advocate, I strongly agree with what you said about if the relationship is not working, that there are options, and I know that that may not always be the case depending on where patients live, but I regularly encourage my clients to sometimes you have to look somewhere else, sometimes you have to get a second opinion or maybe even fire your doctor if the relationship is not mutually beneficial, so I appreciate you sharing that. Dr. Grivas, do you have anything to add in terms of how patients can take a proactive approach to their healthcare and how they can build this confidence we’ve been talking about and express their concerns to their medical team? 

Dr. Grivas: 

I think Dr. Nyame covered it so well. I think it’s critically important for all of us to recognize that the finding out the why is probably the key to answer those questions, why there is this distrust, why someone is not paying attention so her own health because they have to try to make ends meet and keep family fed during the day time, and they don’t have time to think about their own health as Dr. Nyame mentioned before, at the same time, empowering the patient that they are the center of this relationship. 

Why doesn’t Dr. Nyame go to the clinic in the morning is because of patients, so our training is patient-centered and our practice is patient-centered and our research is patient-centered, so the patient should feel that right from the door, that this is a service to them. And we’re doing what we’re doing to help their life being longer, longer survival, as we call it, or better, better quality of life, and listening to the patient’s needs is important because of the time crunch that Dr. Nyame mentioned before, I think many of us, probably all of us are within situations where we don’t have enough time to listen advocate, what the person have to say, that’s why I think it’s important to have opportunities for separate visits and utilize better other mechanisms, exact mechanisms, patient navigation I think it’s a critical part of our care, social workers, case managers, financial counselors, nutritionist, genetic counselors, looking at genetics in for the disposition to cancer which is much more common than we think occurrences sometimes we be higher in some certain populations. Having this service available to patients, can help a lot because they will give them knowledge, and knowledge is power by itself, so give them the center, we’re here for them. Why they’re here, it’s because we want to help them and giving them also resources, they need to get now let’s information, when they feel they have more knowledge and they feel that they have control, they can communicate back and give feedback of how we can do better and also, what are the priorities of their needs, so we can address those, what matters to the patient, and this can apply to base and care, and also is what questions we’re asking? Research should be defined by patient priority, so all of those factors should be a dialogue with a patient, I think advocacy groups can be a great liaison to help us disseminate this concept and help again, empowering the patients. I struggle believe that explaining the why and giving knowledge, the data points in a simple and lay manner, can patients think being more in control. 

 
Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, thank you, both of you. I love the patient-centered focus, that is something that admittedly, we’ve gotten away from that to some degree in medicine because of the time crunches that both of you have mentioned, and I love that you said knowledge is power. So as we close, I’d love for each of you to share maybe a couple of key questions that patients, our care partners facing prostate cancer should ask of their treatment team to ensure that they’re receiving appropriate care. 

So we’ll start with you, Nyame. Any key questions that patients should be asking their care team when they seek treatment or diagnosis of prostate cancer. 

Absolutely, I think that there’s a long list. Actually, I’ll tell you, my new prostate cancer diagnosis visits are usually my longest because there’s a lot to consider. I do think depending on what you’re having done and what you’re being considered for, so let’s say in the localized setting, prostate cancer is confined to the prostate, and you’re thinking about treatment like a surgery or radiation therapy, you really want to know what that center and what that provider’s experience is because we have a lot of supporting evidence that the more people doing this… No one’s going to be surprised by what I’m about to say, but the more that someone does is the better they’re gonna be at it. Okay, and so making sure your team has a good experience with what you’re seeking to have done is important, and I think it’s well within your rights as a patient to understand that, so I think advocate for that. Secondly, I think basic questions, just to understand the relationship, I think… I like it when patients wanna know a little bit about me because I’m gonna be… They’re gonna be in my hands, and so again, the importance of that relationship building and your visit is crucial. 

Lastly, I think when you come to the visit, have a list of questions based off of what you’ve researched and write them down, I find my most sophisticated patients or crossing off questions as I’m talking, ’cause they came prepared and so that preparation… The act of doing a little bit of reading, there are a lot of resources, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, for instance, has a very nice patient guide that’s written by patients and language that’s really digestible and edited by experts, and so going through that and coming with your list of questions, I think is a really important thing for your visit, and those are just a few things I can think of that can lead to a meaningful clinic visit and exchange. 

 
Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Excellent, I’m a huge fan of questions and being prepared for visits, what about you, Dr. Grivas are there one or two key questions that you feel patients or their care partners should ask? 

Dr. Grivas: 

Great answers by Dr. Nyame, I totally agree. I think started with the basics, What this diagnosis means for me, what is the current extent of the cancer, we call the states, and what is the outlook, what is the overall prognosis or at least estimate of the outcome, that’s a reasonable question to ask and again some places more detail, some others may not, and it’s important for us also to ask the base and what they want to know, how much they want to know, I would take in things of them, they want to know the entirety of the information because it makes… Help them make decisions. The other, I think it’s important point, what are the treatment options and what is the intent of the treatment, what are we trying to achieve by giving treatment, are we trying to cure, eradicate or eliminate the culture, are we to prolong life, are we trying to improve quality of life or are we just trying control the cancer, so what are the goals of the treatment and what are the metrics of success, so what will be a successful outcome of that treatment? How do we measure that? And I think it’s also important. 

Two more points, I would if I may. I think, again, going back to the importance of genetic counseling even more in prostate cancer, I think we recognize the importance in the aspect of patient treatment because some treatment options may depend on finding mutations. But also the importance of the family, how much can prevent cancers in the brother family, close and extended family, if we find the mutation, can we set this mutation for other family members and do screening to prevent cancer prevention is ideal if we can do that and I think that’s a good discussion, so the patient can come to the visit if possible, by doing some homework about the family history. It’s hard for of us now, what’s happening in that chasm, right? But we do have the time to be informed of the importance of the question, this can help and expedite in our resources like to genetic counseling. And the last points, research, I want to again make the point, we should all do a better job to offer innovative clinical trials to patients across races, and it should be a very important point again equitable healthcare. And the patient should ask are clinical trials an option for me and do I have a clinical trial option? And I think it’s a great question, and hopefully this can help the patient get to integrative treatment, but also help the field. 

The research would get important answers, and the important answers can be for all the community and the specific populations, if we do trials, clinical trials with only the white patients, do we have the answer for the black patients, or we have the answer for both and other races and ethnicities as well. 

Dr. Nyame: 

And I do wanna take this opportunity to add one more thing because Dr. Grivas was talked about what does your treatment mean for you, and in this discussion about prostate cancer, we cannot talk about what questions do you bring without mentioning the impact, quality of life of our treatments, and I think that sometimes this is the elephant in the room that leads to the decision to not pursue treatment, and so I want to take this opportunity as the urologist to say, This is the time to talk about what treatment is gonna do for sexual function. This is the time to talk about what treatment means for your urinary symptoms and quality of life, a good and healthy discussion around these things need to happen during your visit, because I think sometimes what patients expect to have happen with treatment and reality don’t match. And you have an expert in front of you that can really give you some input as to what to expect, and in a similar vein, when you meet with survivors, these are some of the things that I know patients tell me they’re worried about, and these are people who are living it, that can give you really valuable information on that piece of quality of life, and I hope that those conversations can help us close that treatment disparity that we see between black men and white men with prostate cancer. 

 Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Such wonderful points. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you so much, Dr. Nyame and thank you Dr. Grivas for just illuminating so many important issues, just to briefly summarize, we’ve talked about the disparities that exist in prostate cancer, diagnosis and treatment based on geographic location, based on finances, insurance that is access and… Yes, even race and ethnicity, and you all have done a wonderful job providing solutions, we’ve talked about the importance of advocating for yourself and your loved ones, the importance of being educated and doing some research, coming to those visits with your questions, making sure that you form a relationship with your treating physicians and sometimes perhaps seeking someone else, if that’s not possible, so just… So many gems, and I just wanna thank both of you for spending this time with us today, and I wanna thank you all for tuning in to this Patient Empowerment Network program. I’m Dr. Nicole Rochester, and thank you for joining us. 

Dr. Grivas: 

Thank you. 

What Are Common Barriers Breast Cancer Patients Seeking Care Face?

What Are Common Barriers Breast Cancer Patients Seeking Care Face? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are some barriers breast cancer patients face in their access to care? Host Dr. Nicole Rochester asks Dr. Regina Hampton to share her perspective on obstacles that prevent optimal breast cancer care and how we can help get more patients on their path to empowerment.

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Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

So my first question for you, Dr. Hampton is, what are the common barriers, breast cancer patients and their families face when seeking care, what are the issues that our patients and families are facing?  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think one of the big issues is having access to a breast center, so a multidisciplinary breast center, and so they tend to be in sort of in larger cities, sort of downtown, and many minority communities in these days can’t afford to live downtown. So they’re living on the outskirts, so they may…while they may have great doctors there, many times those doctors may not be up on the latest and the greatest, they may not have access to clinical trials, and so that really truly is a barrier in that sometimes our minority patients may get sub-optimal care. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That’s very concerning. I’m glad that you brought that up, that we’re not disparaging the doctors that practice in those settings, but what you said is really important that they may not have access to some of those up-to-date clinical trials and things that we may see at academic centers, so thank you for bringing that to our attention. 

What Questions Should Patients Ask About Breast Density and Mammograms?

What Questions Should Patients Ask About Breast Density and Mammograms? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can breast cancer patients take action to improve their quality of care? Respected breast cancer expert Dr. Regina Hampton shares advice and insights on breast imaging and some situations when additional imaging may be necessary. Learn about what questions to ask related to breast density and mammograms. 

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What Key Questions Should Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients Ask Providers?


Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

If we start to talk about treatment access, I want to focus on access to quality treatment, in addition to the geographical barriers, we know that sometimes patients have limited access to quality breast cancer care due to their own gaps in knowledge, and studies show that patients who are knowledgeable and engaged in their healthcare received better care. So can you speak to what we have learned specifically if we talk about breast density and the various ways that patients should ask questions to their health care providers, those with dense breast tissue, what are some of the questions that they should be asking, and what should patients with increased breast density know?  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

One of the things I like to start out with letting people know is that breast density is not anything bad. It’s just normal breast tissue. And when we’re younger and our breasts are a little more perky and sitting up, we tend to have more density in the breast, which is great, because you’re perky and high, but mammograms are not the best when you have dense breast tissue. As we start to get more seasoned and the breasts start to go south, that’s actually when mammograms get better, so it’s really important for patients to look at their report and see what they’re saying about breast density, many times they will recommend that a woman come in for additional imaging, it could be an ultrasound, it could be additional mammograms, so it’s really important that women tune into that, and if they don’t understand, to be able to call the facility and ask questions. And I think the big thing is not to be afraid if they ask you to come back in, what I tell people is, “You know what? That just means somebody is looking at your mammogram, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything bad, it means somebody was looking and saying, ‘We might need to look a little deeper and just make sure there’s not anything going on,’” so trying to eliminate that fear when they see that word, density.  

And if you get a normal mammogram, but you are feeling something abnormal, you need to ask some more questions and ask for more tests. 

How Can I Get the Best Breast Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live?

How Can I Get the Best Breast Cancer Care No Matter Where I Live? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can all breast cancer patients get the best treatment no matter where they live? Watch as experts Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Regina Hampton discuss the importance of being comfortable with your own care. Learn about how to find a comprehensive breast center dedicated to patient-centered care and staying in the know regarding your treatment options.

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Transcript:

Nicole Rochester: 

Hello and welcome. My name is Dr. Nicole Rochester, I’m a pediatrician, health advocate and speaker, and the host for today’s Patient Empowerment Network program. Today we’re gonna be talking about how breast cancer patients can truly get the best care no matter where they live. And what does getting the best breast cancer care no matter where you live actually mean? The answer revolves around awareness, gaining access and connecting to resources at the right time, we are so happy that you have tuned in as we dig deep to understand what the barriers are, get expert advice on how to overcome them and gain clarity on your path to empowerment. Please remember, this program is not a substitute for seeking medical care, so please be sure to connect with your healthcare team on what the best options may be for you. It is my honor and privilege to be joined by Dr. Regina Hampton, Medical Director of the Breast Center at Luminous Health Doctors Community Hospital. 

Dr. Hampton has dedicated her life to helping women fight breast cancer. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Hampton.  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

Thank you for having me. Looking forward to a great conversation. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

So we’re gonna start by discussing some of the barriers to breast cancer care. Now we know that some barriers to care include things like geographic, distance to services, financial hardships, access to transportation, and more. So my first question for you, Dr. Hampton is, what are the common barriers breast cancer patients and their families face when seeking care, what are the issues that our patients and families are facing? So 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think one of the big issues is having access to a breast center, so a multidisciplinary breast center, and so they tend to be in sort of in larger cities, sort of downtown, and many minority communities in these days can’t afford to live downtown, so they’re living on the outskirts, so they may… While they may have great doctors there, many times those doctors may not be up on the latest and the greatest, they may not have access to clinical trials, and so that really truly is a barrier in that sometimes our minority patients may get sub-optimal care. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That’s very concerning. I’m glad that you brought that up, that we’re not disparaging the doctors that practice in those settings, but what you said is really important that they may not have access to some of those up-to-date clinical trials and things that we may see an academic centers, so thank you for bringing that to our attention. If we start to talk about treatment access, I want to focus on access to quality treatment, and you just kind of alluded to that, in addition to the geographical barriers, we know that sometimes patients have limited access to quality breast cancer care due to their own gaps in knowledge and studies show that patients who are knowledgeable and engaged in their healthcare received better care, so can you speak to what we have learned specifically if we talk about breast density and the various ways that patients should ask questions to their health care providers, those with dense breast tissue, what are some of the questions that they should be asking and what should patients with increased breast density know?  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

One of the things I like to start out with letting people know is that breast density is not anything bad. It’s just normal breast tissue and when we’re younger and our breasts are a little more perky and sitting up, we tend to have more density in the breast, which is great, ’cause you’re perky and high, but mammograms are not the best when you have dense breast tissue. As we start to get more seasoned and the breast start to go south, that’s actually when mammograms get better, so it’s really important for patients to look at their report and see what they’re saying about breast density, many times they will recommend that a woman come in for additional imaging, it could be an ultrasound, it could be additional mammograms, so it’s really important that women tune into that, and if they don’t understand, to be able to call the facility and ask questions. And I think the big thing is not to be afraid if they ask you to come back in, what I tell people is, You know what? That just means somebody is looking at your mammogram, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything bad, it means somebody was looking and saying, We might need to look a little deeper and just make sure there’s not anything going on, so trying to eliminate that fear when they see that word, density. 

And if you get a normal mammogram, but you are feeling something abnormal, you need to ask some more questions and ask for more tests. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester:

Thank you. That’s extremely important. Something that I see in my field is that most patients and family members are operating from obviously a non-medical viewpoint, and sometimes they just don’t even know what questions to ask, how can we empower patients so that they don’t feel limited in their care, and how do we make them aware of the treatment options that are available? 

Dr. Regina Hampton:

So I think the good thing about many breast centers is that they do have what are called navigators, who really sit and hand-hold the patient through the process, and they sit and do one-on-one counseling, they try to find resources to help the patient get through treatment, they hold support groups, they really are a wealth of information and a nice go between between the patient and the physician or the provider. So trying to find a comprehensive breast center where they have a whole program that’s dedicated to patient-centered care, I think is important. It’s also important that patients be empowered to go online, you can find what questions do I ask? Print it out and bring it to your appointment and ask those questions, and it may take a couple of visits to get those questions answered, but I think it’s important to get the questions answered. If you’re with a provider who is feeling like they don’t have time to answer or they’re blowing you off when you’re answering those questions, guess what? You can fire your doctor and go find another doctor and I don’t think we do that enough.  

I get on my patients and say, You know what, you all scrutinize when you go buy shoes, when you go buy that cute dress, when you go buy that new car, but we should scrutinize our providers ’cause they’re taking care of our most precious commodity, and that is our body. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That is absolutely true. I have fired a couple of doctors in my day, and I recommended that some of my family members fired their doctors as well, so I really appreciate that coming from you, Dr. Hampton. And you touched on a little bit on what I’m gonna ask next, and not really staying on this advocacy piece, we’ve talked about the importance of patients feeling empowered, and you shared a really good tip which I love, which is writing your questions down, it’s something that I frequently recommend to my clients and my friends and family members. Are there some other practices or key steps that patients can take so that they have a proactive approach in their healthcare and that they can feel more confident in voicing some of these concerns when they’re communicating with their healthcare team.  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think it’s important to have a support person. And that could be a family member, it could be a neighbor, it could be your best friend. Doesn’t always have to be family, sometimes it’s better to have somebody who’s not family, ’cause sometimes a family, they get you know they get emotionally involved and we get that, but I think it’s important to have another pair of ears because especially when you get a new diagnosis, you’re not gonna hear everything, and I know patients. The second somebody says, cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, they just shut down. That’s it. They’re not gonna hear. You could tell them, I have a million dollars for you, they’re not hearing you, they’re not gonna follow the directions to go get that million dollars ’cause they just have shut down, and even at that second visit, they still are just sort of… I call it the whomp, whomp, whomp. They see my mouth moving, but they’re not really hearing the words, but if they have another support person who can be there to record the conversation, who can take notes, even in the era of telemedicine, somebody can dial in to listen. I’ve been doing family meetings and people have been on the West Coast, or somebody couldn’t get off the work, but there was somebody there who could hear that information, I think that’s so important, and especially as we get more seasoned, Mom and Dad, sometimes they are a little in denial on the information that they can take in, but so important to be there in some form, and with telemedicine, it makes it quite easy to get another pair of ears in the room. 

Absolutely, you are speaking my language, Dr. Hampton, I’m telling you, ’cause the other thing that I always recommend is for patients to have a buddy, and like you said, that may be a family member, it may be a best friend, it may be someone in your church, but I think the study say that something somewhere around 30% to 40% is all that we retain when we go to the doctor’s office, and so like you said, especially if you’re getting bad news, a lot of that information goes out of your brain, and so it’s so important to have a back-up person and that person can sit and take notes, and sometimes they can even remind you of some of the questions that you may have had or some of your concerns, I really, really appreciate you bringing that up. 

So, I’m sorry, if I may just add another thing, I think it’s also important to take a deep breath, I find people get a cancer diagnosis and they wanna just rush through everything. Well, in most cases, cancer doesn’t spread that fast, but there are a lot of decisions to make, and you really should take that time to hear all the options, may need to get a second or third opinion so that you really can make good decisions, you can’t make good decisions if you’re fearful, just can’t do it. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That is so true. Oh, I’m just loving this conversation. Thank you. That is so very important. So we know that all the barriers that we’ve talked about so far can impact or limit treatment options, and sometimes that can lead to additional complications, so we talked about patients should ask questions, and I wholeheartedly support that. As a breast surgeon, can you share with us what are some key questions that patients with breast cancer should be asking their team at the beginning of their diagnosis? 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think it’s important to understand the type of cancer that you have, is it non-invasive, is it invasive, it’s important to know the characteristics of the tumor, is this a hormone-driven tumor, is in a non-hormone-driven tumor or triple negative tumor? And then to ask in each step, with each discipline with surgery, finding out what are the pros and cons of a lumpectomy versus a mastectomy, when you get to the medical oncologist, finding out the pros and cons of chemotherapy versus hormone therapy, or doing both. How is that delivered? How is this gonna affect my daily life? Can I still work if I’m getting chemotherapy? What happens when I get radiation? And what are the options? So I think it’s just really important to, I’d say, go online and find a list of questions or a lot of great organizations out there that have pointed questions that you should ask each step of the way, many times the navigators will give you booklets and things to read that, have questions. And I think don’t be afraid to turn one visit into two or even three visits to make sure that you’re understanding the options. 

I’m always troubled when I see patients who maybe years ago might have had some options, but they just rushed through and decided maybe to do mastectomy and they say, You know what, had I really just stopped and thought about it, I might have made a different decision. So I think it’s very important, and I feel as the provider, the provider really should know how to read the room and really be able to pick up on the fact that you know what, she’s just not here today, and so… I’m gonna stop talking. I’m gonna send her away, let her digest this and we’re gonna come on back so we can have another conversation, and I think as providers, we have to not be afraid, and I know it’s hard ’cause time is tied. And we’re trying to see as many patients, but it’s really important to understand that every patient may need something a little bit different, and really trying to hone in on that, I think is really important as a provider, and making sure that you’re heard because a lot of times I think women of color, men of color as well, are not really heard by the doctor, and many of the doctors come in with their own biases and think, Oh well, she’s young, she’s automatically gonna want a mastectomy or she’s old, we’re gonna go ahead with a mastectomy, well, it’s a matter of really listening to the patient and seeing how you can meet in the middle, and if the patient has to get a treatment that they’re not really keen on getting, but you know it’s the right thing to do. 

Again, it’s just having that conversation and dialogue so that they understand your reasoning. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Thank you. So, Dr. Hampton, it is evident during this interview, and of course, I also know you personally and professionally, and you have certainly built a reputation of being a compassionate provider, clearly you are very committed to communicating with your patients, but the reality is not all of our colleagues are like Dr. Hampton. And so I’m thinking about something you said about really kind of pushing back, so to speak, sometimes we have to push back in a polite way with our health care providers, and you mentioned maybe the woman is being faced or the man with treatment recommendations and maybe they have some concerns about that, and I know that not every patient feels comfortable disagreeing with their doctor or even engaging in a dialogue where they wanna actually have more conversation. So many people, even in 2021, adopt a paternalistic relationship with their doctor where the doctor says, do this, and then they do it. And so is there any advice that you can give our listeners our watchers, for when they’re in that situation with their breast surgeon or their oncologist, and they’re just not feeling comfortable, they don’t feel like all of the treatment options are being presented, are there any tips that you can provide for that? 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

And in those cases, it’s important to go and get a second opinion, it doesn’t mean that you’re saying that that doctor is not a great doctor, you just may wanna hear the information. It could be the same information, just presented it in a different way. All of us kind of explain things a little bit differently, and so I think getting a second opinion is important, and if your first doctor is offended that you’re getting a second opinion, you should fire that doctor. I tell my patients like, this is not my journey, this is not about me, this is really about you. Where do you wanna go? We will help you get there, we’ll help you get the appointment, ’cause I think it’s important for patients to have that information, so feel empowered and realize you can ask questions of the doctor, we’ve changed medicine and that… It’s a patient-centered approach. It’s not me. The doctor, I know all it’s… you may come in with a new study, let’s talk about it, and if you don’t have a doctor who’s open to hearing that information, then that might not be the doctor for you. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely love that, absolutely love that. Yes, we have to have that type of relationship with our patients where we’re making joint decisions where the patient and their family members are truly brought in as members of the healthcare team. I really, really appreciate that. I wanna shift to… You mentioned this as well, you alluded to the different care sometimes that patients of color receive, so I wanna shift and talk about racial and ethnic inequities, and unfortunately, we know that with every other illness, unfortunately similarly with breast cancer, there’s a long history of women, particularly in BIPOC communities receiving disparate care, a lot of times they are not offered some of these treatment options, maybe they don’t have access to some of the breast cancer centers that you alluded to the beginning, so can you just share some information about some of the disparities that we see, in breast cancer? And then I’m curious to know how you specifically address them being a black woman breast surgeon 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

So one of the things to know is that as African-American women, we tend to get breast cancer at younger ages, and not a lot of physicians know and can recognize that, so it is very important that when a young African-American woman has a breast complaint that that’s taken seriously and worked up to make sure that we’re not missing a breast cancer. So I think it’s important again to have those conversations talking about family history, ’cause we don’t talk about family history, in our families. I’ve had a patient just come in and say, Yeah, well, grandma had a breast missing, no no nobody said cancer, well they probably should’ve said cancer, so we’ve gotta have those health conversations in our family, so I think it’s important for patients to really be their advocate because many times these young women are dismissed and thought, Oh, you’re too young, and I’ve even been kind of fooled myself by some of the young women, so knowing that younger women get breast cancer at younger ages, if you think something is going on, you need to really take that seriously. And then I think it’s also talking about the options, we do tend to get a more aggressive form of breast cancer, but the treatments have changed, and while chemotherapy may be indicated for many patients, it’s not for all patients, and so really taking that time to understand what all the options are, well, why are you recommending chemotherapy, what’s gonna be the benefit for me, what’s the survival benefit for me, what are the side effects, how this going to affect my sex life, how is this going to affect me and my relationship with my children, with work?  

So really just asking all of those important questions, I think it’s also important to ask for what you want. I don’t think we speak up enough, there was actually a study that I was looking out that show that we don’t get offered reconstruction as often as our white counterparts. The disparity is about 24% and that’s really huge. That’s important. So we really need to ask those questions and to know, well, maybe I can’t get reconstruction at this juncture, but can I get it in the future, there’s a federal law that covers all of those for all breast cancer patients, no matter what color you are, so again, it’s just asking those questions. Sometimes taking somebody and having somebody else ask the questions can be helpful. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Yeah, making somebody else the bad guys, so to speak. Absolutely, any time I have a conversation about health disparities and health and equities, honestly, I get a little angry inside because for you to share that statistic that we’re not as often offered reconstructive surgery, that is a huge part of our identity as women. Our appearance, our self-esteem, and I just wanna point out for our viewers that unfortunately, as Dr. Hampton has stated. A lot of times, these disparities are sometimes due to lack of knowledge, so Dr. Hampton mentioned that black women tend to get breast cancer at a younger age, and you need to know that if you’re seeing a breast surgeon or even an internist or oncologist who is not a person of color or who is not up-to-date on that information, they may not know those statistics, but unfortunately, there also is this bias that you’ve talked about as well, and we know that we all have bias, we are exposed regularly to negative images, negative stereotypes of African-Americans, Latino, Native Americans, and doctors are not immune to that bias and we carry those biases into the exam room, and so for people of color with breast cancer, it is particularly important that you follow these recommendations that Dr. Hampton has mentioned, and I just love that really all of them center around advocacy and speaking up for yourself and standing up for yourself. Are there any other things, Dr. Hampton in closing that you can think of specifically for patients of color, things that they can do to really protect themselves from these inequities that exist in breast cancer care. 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

I think we have to really start at the beginning and being more proactive about our screening, making sure that we’re getting those mammograms, making sure that when we get a mammogram, we’re asking for the best mammogram if  there’s new 3D technology, making sure that you get that so that we can find things at an earlier stage, and I think also we have to call it kinda throw out all the myths. We go to let them go people, we got to let them go. And I know there have been some challenges and we have had some historical issues, I think Dr. Rochester and I both agree and acknowledge that, but at some point we have to move forward and be more proactive and really knock down some of those barriers and not let some of those old things that happen hold us back from the new technologies that are available. So I think the good thing, we’re in a day and age where most early stage cancers are not a death sentence and we find them early, we can treat them early, and I think we have to just talk in our community, I’m always amazed that many black women still don’t share their stories. 

So you have women who are in the same circle and don’t realize that the person two seats down went through breast cancer and you all still go to coffee and she didn’t share her story, and now you’re facing breast cancer, you’re thinking, Wow, I’m just alone. And so I think we have to really share that, not only in our families, but we’ve got to share it with our sisters, because you never know who you’re gonna be helping through that journey. I find it interesting that there’s really a difference between how African-American women take a breast cancer diagnosis and white women take a breast cancer diagnosis, and we’re getting ready to really look at this, and I’m really excited about it ’cause I really wanna know what is it and why is there such a difference? But I think we have to not hide, we have to really share our stories and sharing your story is gonna help somebody else. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Absolutely, I think part of the hiding and even what you mentioned about the family history not being shared as part of this kind of myth that we have to be strong or that black women are invincible and that you we can’t be vulnerable. And you’re absolutely right, we need to talk about this in our circles, we need to talk about it with our daughters or nieces, all of our family members, so that we’re all educated and empowered.  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

It’s funny you mentioned that ’cause that’s one of the first things I tell patients to do. I say, Look, you got to let other people take over, ’cause we got work to do, and kids got to eat peanut butter and jelly, they just got to eat some peanut butter and jelly, they’ll be all right, but you’ve got to put yourself first, and I think if we put ourselves first, put our screenings first, we’re good about getting our kids, getting them to their health appointments, we as women have got to get ourselves to our health appointments and put ourselves first, so that we can be there for our families.  

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

You just reminded me of something we as women, are really good at taking care of our kids and our spouses and other members of our family, but then we do that at the expense of ourselves, and I can say when I used to practice as a pediatrician, we were trained to address postpartum moms, and people realize early on that, Hey, okay, they may not have their postpartum visit for six weeks, but they’re taking that baby to the pediatrician in two or three days, and so we would talk with the postpartum moms about screening them for depression and things of that nature, but I never thought about… You literally just gave me this idea that maybe pediatricians should also be checking in with our patients, moms and asking them about their screening, I don’t know if they would be offended by that, but it truly takes a village, and so maybe we need to be encouraging the parents of our patients and making sure that they’re getting their regular screenings and their health maintenance as well, because you’re right, we will look out for the babies and we will put ourselves on that back burner every single time. 

Dr. Hampton, you mentioned that you in practice have seen differences in the way that your white patients handle their breast cancer diagnosis compared to your black patients, and I was working… If you’d be willing to expand on that just a little bit, what are some of those differences that you’ve seen between those two groups? 

So I noticed that in the white women that I’ve diagnosed, that they just seem to take the diagnosis and are ready to jump on board, ready to move forward with treatment and figuring out what needs to be done. And I’ve found with my African-American women, it just, it takes a little bit longer explaining, trying to get them to understand the how, the why, what we’re getting ready to do, and even with that explanation, there’s still some hesitancy. And so I’m curious to know what is that and why is that? And really hear from the patient’s perspective.  

That’s really interesting because of course, right now in the midst of the pandemic, that just mirrors what we’re seeing with COVID-19 vaccination, and I wonder if what you’re seeing with your African-American patients with breast cancer has to do with mistrust, and what we talked about just related to some of the history regarding the treatment of people of color by the health care system and racism and bias, do you think that there’s a level of mistrust of the healthcare system that may be playing into some of that reluctance that you’re seeing? 

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

Absolutely, absolutely, yes. And I’d just be curious to just hear from that patient perspective, I think a lot of those things, as we saw in the pandemic, we carry those things even though so much has changed from back in the day. So it’s gonna be interesting to hear that from the patient perspective and then to be able to hopefully share that information, and I think it could translate, as you were mentioning in to other areas of health, and see if we could then take that to a broader audience and try and make a difference in these disparities.  

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That is awesome. Well, this has been an amazing conversation, Dr. Hampton, just to summarize, what you and I have talked about, you talked about the importance of really advocating for yourself, which as a professional health advocate, that just has me bouncing up and down in my seat, but you’ve talked about the importance of being educated and knowledgeable and looking for the information, you mentioned that there are some good resources on the internet where we can actually find questions that we should ask when we go to see our doctor after a breast cancer diagnosis, you’ve talked the importance of making sure that it’s a team effort and that if we are seeing a position who is not centering our concerns and our needs, if we don’t feel like we’re being heard, if we feel like we’re being dismissed or rushed, that we can and should consider either getting a second opinion and or firing that doctor. And getting another doctor all together, which I fully support, we’ve talked about bringing in a buddy, whether that’s your family member, your best friend, your neighbor, someone at your church, but someone that you trust and who can really sit there with you at those medical appointments and be your eyes and ears, we talked about the fact that patients with the new diagnosis of cancer, of course, are overwhelmed, they’re not hearing a lot of the information, so having that buddy to be able to ask questions on your behalf, to be able to take notes on your behalf is extremely important. 

And we also talked about some of the disparities and that unfortunately, women of color, men of color with breast cancer sometimes don’t receive the same care that they maybe do to access issues, but it also may be due to bias among the providers that are treating us or lack of knowledge about the differences and how breast cancer presents in people of color, and again, the importance having that knowledge, the importance of being educated and being empowered to speak up and to ask questions, so I just appreciate all of this advice, I’m sure that those of you watching have gotten so many pearls from Dr. Hampton, so we want to thank you again for tuning in to the Patient Empowerment Network program. Again, I’m Dr. Nicole Rochester, thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Hampton, it was a pleasure, thank you for having this conversation with me today.  

Dr. Regina Hampton: 

Thank you.