Mercy Cancer Center
Compassionate, comprehensive care, all in one location
|Dr. Costanzo Di Perna (left), medical director for Mercy Cancer Institute, said the cancer care Mercy provides is “comprehensive yet comprehensible. We seek to attain a level of quality never before seen in cancer care.”
Mathew Wroblewski recalls lying in a Mercy Hospital of Folsom patient bed awaiting test results for internal bleeding when he suddenly felt the room turning “like a white tornado.” He was rushed to the ICU after losing 40 percent of his blood—a potentially fatal condition. Additional tests revealed that the bleeding was caused by a blood vessel tear in his small intestine. Doctors also discovered a tumor that caused the tear. Gastroenterologist Robert Pecha broke the news to Mathew and his wife, Nancy, that Mathew had non- Hodgkins lymphoma.
Mathew’s cancer diagnosis was devastating enough, but the drives to radiation therapy, diagnostics, PET scans and other treatments and evaluations at myriad locations were nearly too much for him to bear. Simply commuting to and from radiation appointments—five days a week for eight weeks—created anxiety for the retired businessman.
“The anticipation was difficult. At about the same point on the freeway, I would start to get anxious,” he said. “I would take different routes each time just to put my mind at ease.”
Mercy is easing the burden for patients like Mathew with the January 2012 opening of the new $20 million Mercy Cancer Center in downtown Sacramento. The 22,002 square-foot center is colocated with an 11,664 square-foot comprehensive imaging center, bringing specialists, resources and services all under one roof to provide efficient, coordinated care in an outpatient setting.
The new center is a key step in Mercy’s establishment of a regional oncology program, known as the Mercy Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento. The institute’s goal is to provide comprehensive oncology services emphasizing seamless care while also addressing the emotional needs of patients and their families. Patients receive a full continuum of care, including diagnostic imaging, radiation therapy and medical oncology and infusion services, at one location.
“Our goal is to create a ‘singular event’ to allay anxiety and ease the burden caused by multiple treatments and diagnostics at myriad facilities,” said Dr. Costanzo Di Perna, medical director of the Mercy Cancer Institute. “The care we provide is comprehensive yet comprehensible. We seek to attain a level of quality never before seen in cancer care through consistency and accessibility.”
In collaboration with specialists throughout the region, Mercy’s cancer experts treat a wide range of cancers, including breast, prostate, gynecologic, orthopedic and neurologic. The institute conducts weekly tumor boards, which the National Cancer Institute describes as “a treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties review and discuss the medical condition and treatment options of a patient.” Tumor boards are also called a “multidisciplinary opinion.” Not only does the program improve patient care, it also provides valuable medical education to clinicians.
“Tumor boards allow us to standardize the quality of cancer care,” said Dr. Di Perna. “We can present cancers to oncologists within the Sacramento region to ensure that all people receive appropriate quality of care —something no other health-care system in the area is doing.”
Dr. Di Perna noted that Mercy also is first in the region to have a lung cancer risk evaluation clinic. “By examining risk and addressing lung cancer early, we can break the stigma of this type of cancer,” he said.
Mercy Cancer Institute also provides cancer registry services and research coordinators who provide services at the hospitals and at the Cancer Center. Registrars not only capture a complete summary of every patient history, diagnosis, treatment and status, but they also support physicians and participate in cancer conferences, data management, quality reporting, and education.
To reduce the spiritual burden of cancer, a key focus at the Mercy Cancer Center is “cura personalis”—care of the whole body—a commitment, inspired by the Sisters of Mercy, that sets Mercy apart from other community cancer-care providers. Both the facility and its programs address the complex emotional, physical and spiritual needs of cancer patients and their caregivers in a serene healing environment.
Because diagnosing and treating cancer is complex, maneuvering through the health-care system often is difficult for patients and families. At Mercy, they receive compassionate support from nurse navigators—patient advocates and educators who coordinate care and guide patients through the system from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Nurse navigators assist with everything from scheduling appointments to providing advice on managing the side effects of chemotherapy.
“Navigators give patients a solid footing during their journey through treatment,” said Lynn Smiley, senior director of oncology services. “They help them understand their diagnoses, dispel any myths, and offer invaluable emotional support. Patients are comforted to have someone listen to them share their frustration, anxiety and fear. Nurse navigators can offer advice to alleviate fear and anxiety, such as what Mathew went through when he drove to appointments. They provide hope.”
Hope is what got Mathew Wroblewski through his cancer journey. Now six years in remission, he has put the daily commutes to treatments behind him. He is pleased that the new Mercy Cancer Center will have diagnostic and treatment services all under one roof so patients won’t have the anxiety he suffered.
“Going from here to there and here to there gave me too much time to think, and I had a very difficult time with it,” he recalled. “To have everything in one place, and to have all the same caregivers in one place, will help put minds at ease. It will make a big difference for people.”
Today, Mathew volunteers for the Sheriff’s Department in his community and is thankful for the time he can spend with his nine grandchildren—all born at Mercy Hospital of Folsom. He has made charitable gifts to Mercy Foundation in gratitude for the care he and his family received there.
“Mercy saved my life,” he said. “What can I say other than ‘thank you, thank you, thank you?’ Words can’t describe how I feel about what Mercy did for me.”
How you can help
Cancer is a medical and emotional journey for both patients and their families. While each passage is unique, all patients experience common turns and stops from diagnosis through the end of treatment. The road can be tough to maneuver, so it helps to have a guide to light the way.
A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming for patients and families. Your philanthropic partnership with Mercy Foundation can make their journey easier. A charitable gift will help Mercy enhance the Cancer Center and the adjacent imaging center.
to learn about philanthropic opportunities or contact Lisa Woodard-Mink, Mercy Foundation chief philanthropy officer, at (916) 817-2407 or Lisa.Woodard-Mink@chw.edu.