Published on July 16, 2012

Comprehensive cancer treatment

A one-stop-shop approach speeds cancer treatment

Sonara StepteauWhen Sonara Stepteau discovered she had breast cancer more than four years ago, her world turned upside down. The first in her family to receive such a diagnosis, the now 49-year-old retail sales associate felt overwhelmed by the prospect of numerous medical appointments, unfamiliar medical terminology and her concerns about what would happen next.

Fortunately, Sonara was in good hands. Within a week of her diagnosis, she had met all of the specialists on her medical team at Mercy Philadelphia. A nurse navigator assisted her in making appointments, coordinating referrals with her primary care physician and developing a comprehensive treatment plan.

“When they first told me that something was wrong with my mammogram and I needed to see a surgeon, I was scared and I didn’t know what to expect,” recalls Sonara. “But the whole team made me feel more comfortable about the situation,” she says. “My cancer care team at Mercy Philadelphia is the best.”

Coordinated Cancer Care

For Sonara, knowing that her physicians were working together to help her become cancer free eased her anxiety. “We have a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer that begins right after diagnosis,” says Michael Rachshtut, MD, the medical oncologist in charge of Sonara’s care. “Within a week’s time, Ms. Stepteau was seen by all the subspecialists involved in her care, including her medical oncologist, breast surgeon and radiation oncologist,” he says. “She quickly had an inclusive picture of what would be the best approach to treat her and keep her cancer free.”

High-tech Approach to Cancer

Given the severity of Sonara’s condition, her medical team acted swiftly. Soon after her mammogram, she received a needle biopsy to collect tissue for evaluation. Diagnosed with locally advanced invasive ductal carcinoma, Sonara was given chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by a mastectomy of her cancerous breast that was performed by John Fobia, MD, two months later. This was followed by radiation treatments to kill any remaining cancer cells.

“Radiation was an important step for Sonara due to the stage of her disease,” says Jules Rominger, MD, director of Radiation Oncology at Mercy Philadelphia, who treated Sonara. “Even though she had surgery performed, radiation helps to prevent the local recurrence of the breast cancer.” To further reduce her chance of recurrence following radiation, Sonara was given tamoxifen, a medication that blocks tumor growth.

Helping Others with Cancer

Sonara is now cancer free. As part of her healing journey, she shares her experience with other cancer patients in a support group hosted by Mercy Philadelphia Hospital. Participating in the group also allows her to stay informed of the latest treatments and helps her continue to cope with her concerns about recurrence. In addition to regular checkups with her oncology team, her primary care doctor and her gynecologist, Sonara visits Mercy Philadelphia for yearly mammograms.

“Mercy Philadelphia has become my hospital now,” she says. “I walk around that hospital and everybody knows me on a first-name basis. I’ve met a lot of great people.”