Personal Care: Making the Difference for Breast Cancer PatientsCancer Care
Diana Genotti was first diagnosed and treated for cancer in her left breast in 2009 in Connecticut. She recalls the fear, uncertainty, and confusion she experienced—common feelings for any person faced with a cancer diagnosis.
“It was a very terrifying experience for me because anyone I ever knew who had cancer died,” she says. “There wasn't a lot of support or knowledge or information given to me. I was just handed off from a doctor to a surgeon to an oncologist, and I didn't get a whole lot of information."
She persevered to beat her cancer. For the next 14 years, the results of her annual mammograms were clear, during which time she relocated from Connecticut to Fort Myers. However, in December 2022, a mammogram showed an area of possible concern that warranted monitoring. That concern would become a diagnosis of breast cancer in June, this time in Diana’s right breast.
She turned to the Lee Health Cancer Institute and was immediately referred to a breast cancer nurse navigator. The connection would be the first step in Diana’s second cancer journey, but an important one. Research shows that having a breast cancer navigator can decrease the time from diagnosis to treatment, as well as hospital admissions and treatment delays.
A ‘world of difference’
The nurse navigators at Lee Health Cancer Institute, Southwest Florida’s only accredited Cancer Center, are available to every patient who goes there for care. Diana’s nurse navigator provided her with expert care that started with their first phone call, and will continue throughout her cancer journey.
As Diana recalls, her chat with her cancer navigator made a world of difference in terms of knowing what to expect, being comforted and understood, and being guided through the process.
“She told me you can call me anytime, any day,” she recalls. “She told me the things Lee Health provided, which I had no idea about. That was a big comfort. It took a lot of the anxiety and nervousness out of having cancer.”
But navigation is also personal, too. Diana’s nurse navigator gave her one-to-one encouragement and education during her care and treatment.
Diana found herself at the center of her cancer care, which amazed her, even when she wasn’t physically present in Fort Myers. Case in point: she was diagnosed right before a two-week vacation to Canada. She returned to find that her breast health navigator had set up everything—including honoring Diana’s patient preferences for women doctors.
“It was 1-2-3-4, and everything just happened. And I didn't have to worry,” Diana says. “I just felt like I had such a good connection with her because she really cared about me.”
She said her experience here was night and day compared to her first cancer journey all those years ago, back in Connecticut.
“I knew everything that was going to happen way in advance of what it was going to be,” she says. “I knew what my options were going to be. And so, it was just different. And I had people that I could rely on. It was a very helpful, supportive experience versus being scared to death that if you go in (for surgery), you're not going to come out.”
In July, Diana had surgery to remove her cancer. Fortunately, her cancer had been found early, offering her more treatment options and a better chance of survival. Women whose breast cancer is detected at an early stage have a 93 percent or higher survival rate in the first five years.
Although no chemotherapy was needed, she underwent radiation therapy and cancer rehabilitation therapy in September. In addition, Diana received personalized nutritional guidance and support from a certified, licensed oncology dietitian.
She’s also being set up for genetic testing, another care recommendation she hadn’t expected, along with her cancer rehabilitation program.
“I mean, I would have never thought about cancer rehabilitation therapy. I wouldn’t have thought about genetic testing. I didn't know about any of this stuff. But they were there to guide me,” she says of her care team.
“I think it's so important for people to understand that Lee Health has a really good system, a supportive system for women and breast cancer, and they should take advantage of it,” Diana says.
Be like Diana: Get your mammogram every year
Diana credits her routine of getting yearly mammograms for detecting her breast cancer sooner rather than later. Early detection of breast cancer means a 98 percent survival rate and gives women like her time to consider surgery and treatment alternatives.
Regular clinical breast exams and mammograms are recommended yearly for all women starting at age 40. Screening mammograms are also done for women who have no signs or symptoms related to the breasts (asymptomatic).
Lee Health Breast Health Centers
Lee Health’s Breast Health Centers have earned accreditation as Designated Comprehensive Breast Imaging Centers from the American College of Radiology. Lee Health Breast Health Centers is the only breast center in Lee County to have achieved accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). Our breast centers are also certified members of the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers (NQMBC).
The Lee Health Cancer Institute helps cancer patients with comprehensive care and treatment plans from its expert team of medical oncologists, specialists, nurse navigators, and rehabilitative clinicians.
Resources are accessible and conveniently located for Cape Coral, Naples, Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, and Bonita Springs residents. The Institute also offers in-person or telemedicine healthcare services.
Diana’s Cancer Care Team:
Frances Hutchinson, R.N., biopsy and breast navigator
Denise Pfeiffer, MSPT, cancer rehabilitation navigator/coordinator
Taylor Meyer, R.D., board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition
Morgan Lemos, cancer rehabilitation physical therapist