Oct. 24, 2012
By Michael Gaffney
At the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center the focus is on providing patients quality care with an emphasis on compassion — attributes that have helped the Stoneham-based facility thrive in a competitive health care industry since opening in June.
Sprawled across the fourth floor of the Stoneham Outpatient Campus at 41 Montvale Ave., the Comprehensive Breast Center offers patients access to the latest technological advances in the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of breast disease.
Hallmark Health spent $1.5 million to build the Comprehensive Breast Center, relocating staff and equipment previously headquartered at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and Lawrence Memorial Hospital so they could work at one centralized location.
As part of the transition Hallmark Health also purchased state-of-the-art equipment that makes the facility stand out. One example is the Siemens MammoTest, a fully digital prone table biopsy system that uses a three-dimensional computerized image to view abnormal areas of the breast in detail and allows patients increased comfort when they undergo a breast biopsy.
John Seccareccio, director of imaging services and co-director of the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center, said the intent was to make care more efficient and convenient for patients.
“We provide all the services streamlined under one roof,” Seccareccio said.
The dedicated staff is another area where administrators stressed the center excels. Six surgeons operate out of the facility, including two who specialize in breast surgery.
The latest doctor to join the breast center surgical ranks is Diana Caragacianu, who recently completed several years of advanced education and medical training in surgical oncology with a specialty in cancer-related breast surgery, endocrine malignancies and melanoma.
Going back to the focus on compassionate care, Nurse Navigator Shelly Beckley is there to coordinate care for the patient every step of the way.
A nurse practitioner, Beckley works closely with an inter-disciplinary treatment team to assure timely access of scheduled appointments and to provide emotional support to patients and their families.
Elisa Scher, system director of oncology services and co-director of the Hallmark Health System Comprehensive Breast Center, explained that the addition of the nurse navigator is the first position of that kind for Hallmark.
Scher said Beckley plays a vital role educating patients about their breast disease diagnoses and available treatment options so they make informed decisions.
“Whether it’s a benign test or cancer, having a nurse practitioner in this capacity who can be there for patients is critical,” Scher said.
A team effort
With the Boston area home to so many world-class cancer centers, why should patients opt to seek their treatment at the Comprehensive Breast Center?
Caragacianu, who arrived at the breast center in August, said the doctors and nurses at the facility are extremely invested in the health of their patients.
Whether patients come in with breast cancer or another serious breast disease, Caragacianu said the breast center has the resources available to provide patients the care they need.
Some of the services at the center include diagnostic digital mammography, breast ulstrasound, stereotactic and ultrasound guided biopsies, breast cyst and fine needle aspirations, galactography, surgery consults, a Lymphedema specialist and access to social workers.
Should a tumor turn out to be cancerous, medical oncology and chemotherapy are located in the same Stoneham Outpatient Campus building as the breast center, with the radiation department across the street.
One aspect that Caragacianu said is particularly special about the breast center is the empathy shown to patients.
Caragacianu said the large cancer centers in Boston are terrific, but because of the sheer size and volume of patients coming through the doors they don’t have the same personal touch as the Comprehensive Breast Center.
“We treat our patients like our family here,” Caragacianu said.
Timeliness of care is another advantage at the center, according to Caragacianu. Concerned patients can come in and be seen by a doctor without an appointment, while they might have to wait a few days to receive the same service at Dana Farber or Mass General Hospital.
“I’m there to discuss all the possibilities of what an abnormality means, and to go over whether a patient needs a biopsy,” Caragacianu said, adding that pathology results are available within 24-48 hours.
With so many resources centralized, Scher said the goal is for patients to walk out of the breast center with answers to any questions regarding their disease and treatment options.
“We’re off to a great start here, we’re very proud of what our team has accomplished so far,” Caragacianu said.