With the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women – affecting 1 in 8 women. Each year, approximately 266,120 new cases are diagnosed, and 40,920 women die of the disease. These figures are staggering.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to educating the public, fundraising for research and helping those affected by this devastating diagnosis. Early detection and diagnosis, as well as a well-thought-out treatment plan, are crucial for a positive outcome. A medical team of oncologists and other specialists can treat the physical issues associated with breast cancer, but other elements of patient care need to be considered. A medical assistant can play a vital role in treating non-medical issues and aiding in the healing process.
Many people feel some amount of anxiety when visiting the doctor for a routine appointment or procedure. If you’re a cancer patient, that feeling may be much more severe. As the first point of contact in the physician’s office, the behavior of the medical assistant can set the tone for the entire visit – and even the relationship between doctor and patient.
As a medical assistant helping a breast cancer patient, you should:
- Be conscious of your demeanor. Make eye contact, smile and be respectful. Make the patient feel important, and show genuine concern.
- Inject humor into the conversation. Cancer is bad news, but sometimes just lightening the mood with a joke or funny anecdote can help the patient relax.
- Show empathy and compassion. Do your best to be compassionate and empathize with the patient’s situation. Many times, a patient is more comfortable talking with a medical assistant than the doctor. Listen to what she has to say – and ask what she needs from you, how you can help.
- Treat the patient like a human being and not a sick person. Your patient has a disease, but she’s a woman Make her feel as “normal” as possible. Take your cues from her.
In addition to performing clinical duties such as drawing blood, taking vital signs and recording medical history, a medical assistant also helps set appointments, organizes hospital admissions and lab services, and supervises the patient’s insurance information. There are several other ways a medical assistant can help a patient with breast cancer:
- Assume the role of comforter. As such, you can establish a personal touch that becomes part of the healing. Use calming words and actions to reassure your patient, helping to reduce her anxiety and be more comfortable.
- Take charge of paperwork. When a person has cancer, there will be many appointments to coordinate and a lot of paperwork from labs, doctors and insurance companies. The medical assistant can step in and help minimize patient frustration by processing insurance forms and test results.
- Assist with home healthcare. Some cancer patients choose to stay in their homes rather than in a hospital. A medical assistant can help monitor the patient’s health, provide post-hospitalization follow-up care, help with mobility issues, assist with hygiene needs and administer medication.
- Help with palliative care. A breast cancer patient receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment often suffers from side effects (pain, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, insomnia, etc.) that can disrupt quality of life. Palliative care helps relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. A medical assistant who works in a palliative care facility can help cancer patients with daily care, administer medication and change dressings.
- Lend support to breast cancer patients’ families. As a medical assistant, you can be a resource to family members by updating them on course of treatment, handling administrative duties and offering emotional support.
A medical assistant plays a vital role in the smooth operation of a doctor’s office, hospital or medical clinic, and can offer tremendous support for cancer patients. If you think becoming a medical assistant is a career path that you would like to follow, consider enrolling in the medical assistant program at MTI College.
An MTI education prepares you for a career in medical assistance with comprehensive training in administrative, clinical and laboratory procedures. You’ll learn:
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical protocol and procedures in clinics and laboratories
- Front-office practices, including coding and billing procedures
- Patient relations
- Medical law and ethics
Additionally, a required 160-hour off-campus externship provides hands-on experience in a professional healthcare facility setting. In less than a year, you can be ready for an entry-level position as a medical assistant, a field that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is expected to increase by 24 percent through 2024.
For more information or to enroll in the medical assisting program, contact MTI College today.