Screening is vital in battle against cancer

Clinic provides many services people would traditionally receive from their family doctor

BY ANGELA BROWN News Staff – Glengarry Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in Lancaster is continuing its work helping area residents receive timely screenings in an effort to prevent cancer.

Executive director Penelope Smith explains the clinic has been coordinating cancer screenings for clients since April of last year, to support Cancer Care Ontario’s “Cancer Screening Quality Improvement Tool-Kit.”

“We recognize that cancer screening and early detection really do save lives, in terms of some of the research that exists out there,” she says, adding as a result the team at the clinic decided to include cancer screening as a central part of its strategy to meet its goals as a health-care provider, as outlined by the province.

The clinic coordinates screenings for eligible clients for three major cancers that put people at risk: breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer (colon cancer, rectal cancer or bowel cancer).

The aim of the plan is to raise awareness so people remember they need to be screened for cancer on a regular basis, depending on their age, so if they discover they have cancer they will be in a better position to treat it early before it has advanced to a more serious stage.

The tool-kit directs health practitioners to “act, plan, study, and do,” to ensure their clients are following a program to have regular screenings for common cancers.

The Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic health professionals are available to provide screening for clients and will coordinate appointments elsewhere when the screening process involves technology such as ultra-sound or mammogram machines that are available only at a hospital or specialized medical lab.

Ms. Smith says the province’s guide helps the health-care team better monitor clients who are at greater risk of developing cancer.

In tracking its numbers for the past year, the Lancaster clinic noticed an increase in the number of people who register for cancer screenings.

Champlain Local Health Integration Network also has cancer screening goals for the region to ensure more people are screened on a regular basis.

The LHIN wants to see at least 70 per cent of eligible people aged 50 to 74 screened for breast cancer identification in a given year.

The clinic set a target of 85 per cent, and at the end of the year managed to surpass it by having 88 per cent of its eligible clients receive their breast cancer screening. “We’re pleased with that. It’s a very good result,” says Ms. Smith.

Nurse practitioner Tracy Lohmeyer reminds Glengarrians the clinic can provide most of the services clients historically would expect to receive from their family doctor, such as having a Pap test, a clinical breast examination, an examination to identify possible skin cancers, or to conduct fecal-occult blood testing for early screening for different types of cancer.

Ms. Lohmeyer notes if any clients have abnormal findings they will receive more frequent testings. Usually dates for testings will depend on a client’s age and medical history.

“We enquire every year when we do our physicals where the patients are with their screenings,” she says. “Every time we see a patient we remind them when they are due for their next screening test. It is a phe-nomenal system we have here. We’re proactive in that.”

The clinic also checks its statistics every three months to determine who is eligible for a cancer screening, who has been screened and who still needs to be screened to identify people who are not up-to-date with their screening schedule.

Currently, the clinic has three nurse practitioners on staff but is looking at hiring another one in the near future.

When a client is registered with the clinic he or she is assigned to a specific nurse practitioner, similar to the way a client would have a family doctor.

So for prospective clients who don’t already have a family doctor, the clinic offers them another option. Currently, the clinic has 1,600 clients registered and has a waiting list of 300.

Nurse practitioners can write a prescription for med-ication or make a referral to a specialist. They also con-sult with a physician on a weekly basis as needed.

It may take a client two or three months to see a nurse practitioner. All clients must call ahead to make an appointment.

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