bayhealth YO U R T R U S T E D PA R T N E R I N H E A LT H
2021 COM M U N I T Y R E PORT
Winning Spirit ALEXIS HOWERIN BEAT BREAST CANCER WITH THE HELP OF THE ONCOLOGY TEAM AT BAYHEALTH CANCER INSTITUTE
“ Doing self-exams, knowing your family’s health history, and advocating for yourself when you know something doesn’t seem right ... could save your life.”
— ALEXIS HOWERIN
Alexis Howerin wants to level the playing field for her peers after surviving a breast cancer diagnosis at a young age.
2021 community report
Fighting Spirit AFTER SUCCESSFULLY BATTLING BREAST CANCER AT AGE 21, ALEXIS HOWERIN HOPES TO EDUCATE AND EMPOWER OTHER YOUNG WOMEN
ooking back on 2020, most would say “normal life” was interrupted around March with the onset of the pandemic. But for Alexis Howerin, a local collegiate athlete and aspiring teacher, life as she knew it changed on Jan. 31, 2020, when she received her diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. Howerin was 21 years old at the time and had just begun the spring semester of her junior year. “I thought my life was over,” she said. In October 2019, Howerin noticed a lump in her left breast during a self-exam, but obstacles postponed her OB-GYN visit until the end of December. “I’m young, so the mention of a lump really alarmed my doctor,” Howerin said. After imaging and a benign biopsy result that left doctors concerned, she underwent a lumpectomy and days later learned of her diagnosis. “We’ve recently seen an increase in the number of younger women being diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Howerin’s medical oncologist and Bayhealth Cancer Institute Medical Director Rishi Sawhney, MD. “But even in those cases the women are in their 40s or 50s—sometimes 30s. A breast cancer diagnosis at 21 is extremely rare.”
Once the initial shock subsided, Howerin’s will to fight kicked in. She opted for a double mastectomy before starting therapies—a decision her care team empowered her to make. “Cancer is an intrusive and commanding disease Howerin that often leaves patients feeling out celebrates of control,” said Dr. Sawhney. “It’s her last day of chemotherapy. important to me to help my patients feel in control again by educating them about their diagnosis and treatment options and allowing them the final say.” communicating with them every step of On March 18, 2020, just days after the way. “My team knows that commuCOVID-19 visitor restrictions were nication is one of the most important implemented, Howerin walked into the aspects of a quality patient experience, hospital alone for her procedure. Wendy so when visitor restrictions were impleNewell, MD, a general surgeon and mented, they pivoted to virtual without breast specialist, performed the skipping a beat,” said Dr. Sawhney. operation and sent Howerin home the Now Howerin is passionate about same day to recover with her family. telling others her age to listen to their When Howerin had to undergo 20 bodies. “Doing self-exams, knowing weeks of chemotherapy treatments, your family’s health history, and her family stayed connected with her advocating for yourself when you know virtually from the hospital’s parking lot. something doesn’t seem right are “This was the next best thing to being important and could save your life,” with her,” said Becky Howerin, Alexis’ she said. mom. “I could still talk to her and see her, and she and the staff knew I was ➽ Visit Bayhealth.org/Foundation to just outside if she needed me.” learn more about how you can Both mom and daughter commend support Bayhealth’s lifesaving the Bayhealth Cancer Center staff oncology services. for their care and patience in
“ It’s important to me to help my patients feel in control again by educating them about their diagnosis and treatment options and allowing them the final say.”— RISHI SAWHNEY, MD b ay h e a lt h . o r g
oncology Precision Cancer Care UNDERSTANDING A TUMOR’S MOLECULAR PROFILE HELPS DOCTORS PROVIDE MORE POWERFUL TREATMENT
Cancer treatment has gotten personal. In the past few years more options are available for patients with advanced-stage cancers to treat actionable mutations with a personalized treatment. This is known as molecular tumor testing. Molecular tumor testing, or “precision oncology,” sheds light on a tumor’s unique characteristics. “You’re finding out the specific mutations about the tumor and applying those specifics to understand if there is a treatment strategy to target the mutations,” said Stephanie McClellan, MBA, MSN, RN, Cancer Institute manager at Bayhealth Cancer Center. “In this context, molecular tumor testing is absolutely a game changer.” “Bayhealth is committed to providing community cancer care that is comprehensive, cutting edge, and personalized,” said Rishi Sawhney, MD, medical director of the Bayhealth Cancer Institute. “Our recently launched Precision Oncology Program focuses on the molecular profile of each individual cancer so that the most appropriate personalized treatment options may be considered.” The Bayhealth Cancer Institute also Bayhealth Cancer Institute holds a bimonthly Molecular Tumor Manager Conference, at which cancer experts Stephanie discuss individualized treatment for McClellan, RN. patients. “Individualized treatment means that we are able to target the specific mutation that was found. Sometimes this means using a different therapy,” McClellan said. Patients may qualify for molecular testing based on their diagnosis and other factors, although for those with stage 4 cancers molecular tumor testing is recommended. “We are constantly looking at the best ways to treat our patients,” McClellan said. “Patients do not have to travel to get individualized tumor testing and treatment.”
CANCER REGISTRY: TOP CANCER SITES To support a better understanding of cancer incidence and mortality, the Bayhealth Cancer Registry reports accurate and timely data to the National Cancer Database and the State of Delaware Cancer Registry. The numbers below reflect the most common types of cancer diagnosed at Bayhealth Cancer Center, Kent Campus and Bayhealth Cancer Center, Sussex Campus in 2020. BAYHEALTH CANCER CENTER, KENT CAMPUS • Breast 19% • Lung 16% • Prostate 14% • Colorectal 6% • Bladder 5% • Other 40% BAYHEALTH CANCER CENTER, SUSSEX CAMPUS • Breast 22% • Prostate 17% • Lung 13% • Colorectal 6% • Bladder 6% • Other 36%
RECORD-SETTING RUNWAY OF HOPE EVENT Bayhealth Cancer Institute’s 10th annual Runway of Hope fundraiser raised $100,308 in support of programs for its cancer survivors and patients, thanks to the generous outpouring of support from our community. The record-setting amount raised by the event—which featured both a silent and live auction, a fashion show, and the inspiring stories of Bayhealth Cancer Institute patients—will be used to support the Bayhealth Cancer Institute’s survivorship program and Helping Hands Fund. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our community banded together to support our cancer patients like they never have before. And on behalf of our patients and everyone else at the Bayhealth Cancer Institute, we want to thank everyone who participated in this year’s event for their amazing generosity and support,” said John Shevock, FACHE, Bayhealth Cancer Institute executive director and senior director of Operations, Oncology Service Line.
The Runway of Hope committee.
Return to Screenings THE PANDEMIC CAUSED MANY PEOPLE TO PUT OFF HEALTH SCREENINGS—SO BAYHEALTH LAUNCHED AN INITIATIVE ENCOURAGING PATIENTS TO GET BACK ON TRACK
Regular health screenings help detect diseases early, when they’re easier to treat. But during the pandemic, Bayhealth has seen a dramatic drop in screenings. “I think a lot of that was out of fear,” said Stephanie McClellan, MBA, MSN, RN, Cancer Institute manager at Bayhealth Cancer Center. But health experts have another fear—that skipped screenings may lead to a spike in deaths from diseases like cancer a few years down the line. To ensure that people get the potentially lifesaving screenings they need, Bayhealth has joined a national Return to Screening effort, spearheaded by the Commission on Cancer, the American Cancer Society, and the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. Bayhealth’s hope is to boost screening rates by 10%.
Bayhealth’s efforts include sending postcard reminders via MyChart to patients who are due for screenings as well as working with community practice providers to get people scheduled. “For example, we started working with Dover Air Force Base,” McClellan said. “They have a clinic, but they refer patients to Bayhealth for their imaging. We made sure that they were aware of our screening program and the appointments that were available. We opened additional evenings at Eden Hill.” Bayhealth also launched a project
with the Perdue Foundation (the charitable arm of Perdue Farms) to get underserved women screened for breast cancer, and partnered with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and West Side Family Medicine to conduct patient outreach—ensuring patients have appropriate information and transportation to screenings and that they know the screening program is free. McClellan says the Return to Screening effort has been a lot of work but brings rich rewards, as more people are now getting screenings that could save their lives. And Bayhealth continues to encourage people to safeguard their health. “Get screened because early detection is the best prevention,” said McClellan. “You don’t need to delay care that is considered essential, especially when we are a safe place.”
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