The Young Women’s Program for Cancer Care supports the unique needs of this specific patient population.
Cancer cases in adults under 50, especially women, are rising, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed in women. In the past five years, there has been a nearly 10% increase in women under 50 diagnosed with all cancers at White Plains Hospital compared to the previous five years.
Recognizing that women under 50 are a group with distinct needs, the Hospital is launching the Young Women’s Program for Cancer Care under the leadership of Dr. Yael Zack, a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at White Plains Hospital.
While the Hospital has been providing a suite of services to young women with cancer for many years, the time was right to create a program. “This group of patients has a set of unique issues they are juggling – from family life to sexual health and fertility concerns to career apprehensions. These young women are often the glue of the family, and that merits recognition with the creation of a program like the Young Women’s Program that offers a holistic approach to their care," says Dr. Zack.
Dr. Zack with Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, Director of Breast Surgery at White Plains Hospital, and Ramona Ricknauth and her son, who were featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Health Matters®.
Through the program, White Plains Hospital offers services to assist young women at every stage of their illness and to address their changing needs over the course of treatment. Dr. Zack notes that when she sees a young cancer patient, she often calls in a genetic counselor, clinical navigator, social worker, and fertility specialist if indicated, to support the patient during the initial period of diagnosis. These team members can quickly address patient concerns. Once treatment begins, patients have specialized support for managing side effects, including nurses, dietitians and endocrinologists to find the right modality for maintaining a healthy weight and to help with devices like cold caps, which help prevent hair loss. They also have access to supportive services like acupuncture (to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy), art therapy, and even a wig room.
“This is what makes our program so unique. The connectivity between healthcare providers here is incredible,” says Dr. Zack. “The members of the multidisciplinary team — the medical oncologist, radiation oncologists, surgeons, and others — are under one roof and are in constant communication to best care for our patients. “Developing a program such as the Young Women’s Program for Cancer Care helps these women feel like they are part of a community, and we will be hosting regular support groups to further strengthen this bond. It will hopefully give these women a sense of control in what can feel like a whirlwind of a process,” Dr. Zack adds.
In addition, Dr. Zack explains that “Time is of the essence with this population.” The close-knit group of providers within the Hospital’s network helps these women receive expedited services. “We aim to see newly diagnosed patients within 48 hours,” she says. (Dr. Zack notes she is starting to see more patients from surrounding communities, such as Rockland and Dutchess counties, who choose the Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care because of its outstanding staff and access to providers.)
Every day, the tumor board at the Hospital meets to discuss these unique cases and uses a multidisciplinary approach to ensure the best patient outcomes; Dr. Zack says patients will be part of the process as they discuss the pros and cons of different treatments. Dr. Zack and the multidisciplinary team at White Plains Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care strive to make this new program “an enveloping environment” for the patient. “These patients will be wrapped in science, support, warmth, and love,” she says.