Managing a Diagnosis of Multiple Cancers

The Challenge:

To empower Mr. C. to manage his healthcare after he was diagnosed with multiple cancers, requiring care from multiple specialists.

The Caregivers:

Over 18 healthcare professionals in all, including a primary care physician, surgeon, oncologists, urologist, diagnostic testing facilities, visiting nurse agency and others.

The Solution:

A combination of coaching, education, research, documentation and attendance at medical appointments.

The Result:

Thanks to active communication, support and caregiver coordination, Mr. C. was able to live well for an additional two years until his passing.

Two Signs of Unexpected Illness

At the age of 71, Mr. C. had enjoyed a lifetime of good health and continued to work full-time as a laborer in a foundry. When he decided to undergo a free prostate-screening test, Mr. C. was told that he had an elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) and that he required follow-up care with an urologist.

With no regular doctor, Mr. C. first needed to find a primary care physician, something that his adult daughter helped with. His new physician recommended that he undergo routine screenings, including his first colonoscopy. Unfortunately, Mr. C. was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer and urged to see a surgeon.

Confusion and Unanswered Questions

Understandably, Mr. C. was anxious and confused. Did the elevated PSA mean he had prostate cancer in addition to colo-rectal cancer? How did one condition relate to the other? How would the specialists who treated him coordinate his care? He turned to Healthassist for answers.

Clear, Open Communication With Doctors

Healthassist coached Mr. C. to assume primary responsibility for communication about his care to his entire healthcare team – and not to assume they automatically updated one another. As a result, he called his primary care physician whenever he received new information from his specialists, enabling his doctor to see the big picture and remain an active participant in his care. 

Getting It All In Writing: Insurance Review and Documentation Services

Healthassist conducted a review of Mr. C.’s medical insurance plan to ensure he would receive maximum coverage for his medical procedures and office visits. In addition, we organized Mr. C.’s growing healthcare information in one place so that no detail would be lost, requesting copies of test results and office visits from each of his physicians, as needed. Mr. C. took this file with him to appointments, minimizing delays or setbacks in care due to lost or missing information.

Attendance At Appointments

Based on Healthassist’s research of his insurance coverage, we suggested that Mr. C. consult with an in-network surgeon who had years of experience with colo-rectal tumors. Healthassist accompanied Mr. C. to appointments and documented the proceedings. The surgeon recommended that Mr. C. undergo radiation treatment and chemotherapy prior to undergoing the surgical procedure to remove the tumor. The surgeon referred him to a Radiation Oncologist and a Medical Oncologist. Healthassist educated Mr. C. about these specialists and the treatment they would provide.

Advocacy During Treatment

Over the three months required to complete radiation and chemotherapy treatment, Healthassist remained in close phone contact with Mr. C. Our discussions focused on his progress, any complications, his questions and concerns. Because the elevated PSA screening had taken a back seat to the colo-rectal cancer diagnosis, Healthassist reminded Mr. C. to request a referral from his primary care physician to an urologist and to inform his surgeon of the appointment.

A Second Cancer Diagnosis

The urologist suggested a prostate biopsy; this confirmed that Mr. C. had prostate cancer unrelated to his colo-rectal cancer. The urologist, who was aware of Mr. C.’s colo-rectal cancer and upcoming surgery, recommended hormonal therapy as the preferred treatment option.

Support Before Surgery

In preparation for Mr C.’s colo-rectal surgery, Healthassist accompanied him to his pre-op appointment with the surgeon. Here, to our surprise, it became clear that there had been no direct communication between the surgeon and Mr. C.’s urologist. Healthassist relayed the information about Mr. C.’s prostate cancer diagnosis and proposed treatment, and urged the surgeon to call the urologist for more details, which he did immediately. The decision was made to proceed with the surgical procedure for Mr. C.’s colo-rectal cancer.

Preparation For a Hospital Stay

Healthassist reviewed Mr. C.’s pre-operative instructions and talked with him at length to help him prepare for his hospital experience. After reviewing Mr. C.’s recommended diet regimen, we researched and provided sample menus that accommodated his new dietary restrictions.

Support Through Ongoing Treatment

After Mr. C.’s recovery, he received numerous protocols of chemotherapy. Through all the stages of his diagnosis and treatment, Healthassist was there to anticipate potential side effects and to help recognize complications that had to be reported to his physicians. Healthassist also helped facilitate all the necessary communication among the many medical team members. Throughout Mr. C.’s illness,  Healthassist ensured that he was able to assert his independence, attend family gatherings and maintain many of his favorite activities.

 Healthassist  Services Overview

  • Education to ensure clear, open communication among 18 physicians and caregivers.
  • Attendance and advocacy at medical appointments.
  • Maintenance of complex medical records, retrieval of diagnostic tests and a review of medical insurance.
  • Assistance in identifying appropriate specialists and facilitating communication between them.
  • Advocacy during treatment and management of side-effects.
  • Preparation for hospital stays and support during recovery.
  • Support for Mr. C.’s circle of caregivers, including his daughter and other family members.
  • Identification and selection of appropriate hospice care and its coordination with at-home family members.

The Result

Despite his multiple cancer diagnoses, Mr. C. was able to life well for two years, including the achievement of one of his major goals: Walking his only daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Mr C passed on 11 months later, shortly after learning that his first grandson was on the way.