A cancer diagnosis is often scary and overwhelming. It takes an enormous emotional, physical and financial toll on those with the disease and with their family and friends.
However, in addition to the latest advances in treatments, interviews with Santa Clarita Valley health care providers repeatedly touched on a theme: A host of providers have partnered to provide a complete spectrum of care right here in our backyard.
Family physician Dr. Christian Raigosa of Kaiser Permanente discussed the importance of screenings and regular check-ins with your personal physician.
“As long as you’re on top of (your health) and you’re getting your screenings done,” Raigosa said, “you improve the likelihood of staying disease free.” It can also increase the odds of recovery by getting an early diagnosis.
Lisa Ortega, Henry Mayo’s director of cancer services, concurred: “Screenings are important because the earlier we find something (like cancer), the better the outcome.”
According to Ortega, breast and prostate cancer patients have a 98%, 5-year survival rate if the cancer is found early enough.
“It’s estimated by 2020 that almost 1-in-3 people will get cancer in their lifetime, but it’s become much more of a chronic disease,” Ortega said, “so it no longer means you’re going to die because we can catch it earlier, and there’s more types of targeted therapies.”
The staff at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital use the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Center for mammograms, but other doctors and primary care physicians also have the ability to perform the screenings, according to Ortega. “I think people should know there are resources out there to help them through the process,” Ortega said. “They’re not alone.”
Ortega also noted the importance of understanding what is normal with your body so if you notice something that is not normal, “you can do something about it and get checked out.”
Finding the right doctor who can provide adequate care is only part of the battle against cancer, according to local health care professionals. After a cancer diagnosis, patients and caregivers are usually left with feelings of fear, doubt and hopelessness, which is why it’s important for families to find a place where they feel they belong and can share their experiences.
“Sometimes it’s just as hard on the caregivers as it is on the patients — or harder, because they have other things to take care of,” Ortega said.
Henry Mayo isn’t the only place to receive assistance though, as Circle of Hope also has a number of resources available to local residents, including a wellness center that is open to anybody who is a cancer patient or in recovery.
“At the wellness center, we offer — free of charge — wellness classes, therapies and we have all sorts of massage classes, yoga, lectures and many other types of spiritual, education or fitness classes for people in any stage of recovery,” said Tricia Rasplicka, an office administrator at Circle of Hope.
“We also have a support group that meets every other Tuesday, and that’s open to anybody who is interested in attending,” Rasplicka said, mentioning it’s available to family members, caretakers, survivors and newly diagnosed patients.
Along with the wellness center, patients can also use Circle of Hope staff to find financial resources that can assist in lowering their treatment costs.
“We can offer financial resources to those who qualify,” according to Rasplicka, which can be used to help with anything relating to cancer costs. “We don’t help pay any other bills,” Rasplicka said, “but we can help pay for surgery, medication and other cancer-related costs.”
Residents in need of more specialized care have access to that through City of Hope, where they can find a myriad of surgeons and access to clinical trials in the SCV, according to Amanda Eglseder, physician relations liaison for City of Hope.
The American Cancer Society is another resource for Santa Clarita Valley cancer patients. “They give free wigs from their office and you can set up a ride to treatment,” Eglseder said. “They also have six hotel partnerships,” which can make accommodations for caregivers or patients who live out of the area but require local care.
“I think the most important thing to consider is don’t categorize yourself as another person who has cancer, because every cancer is different,” she said. “It’s based on your genetics, so another’s story isn’t necessarily going to become yours. Your age, genetic response, health and all that matters.”
In general, cancer treatment is very standardized, Ortega said, “which I hope provides a peace of mind to readers because people will want to stay with their insurance. After all, it’s a pretty expensive endeavor (paying for cancer).”
And local residents have no need to travel outside of the SCV, Ortega said, “because we all have the resources here. You can do everything here.”