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A Patient-Focused Affiliation

A Patient-Focused Affiliation

September 29, 2023 Posted in: Cancer Care  4 minute read time


In 2019, CHI Saint Joseph Health started a formal affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, a nationally ranked cancer program, to enhance their cancer care services.

“This partnership gives our patients immediate access to world-class oncology expertise,” said Nicolas Burnett, MD, radiation oncologist and medical director of radiation oncology at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care. “Patients get the same standard of care they would receive at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, which isn’t available anywhere else in our area.”

This partnership does more than sound impressive. Every day, our affiliation offers real benefit to real people. One of these is 26-year‑old Lexington resident Kaitlyn Carpenter.

Cancer Took Her Breath Away

Carpenter had been healthy her whole life. She’d recently gotten serious in the gym and lost 80 pounds. Then, everything changed.

One day, she had a hard time breathing while lying down. It was easier for Carpenter to breathe while standing, but she still couldn’t take a deep, satisfying breath. In the coming weeks, she couldn’t climb stairs, and simple tasks such as folding laundry took her breath away.

“I know I should have gone in sooner,” she admitted, “but I’m not really the type that goes to the doctor.”

Six weeks after her symptoms began, Carpenter visited her primary care physician and completed some lab work. The results showed elevated D-dimer levels, which indicated potential blood clots, so she went to the emergency department where a CT scan identified a mass causing fluid in her lungs and heart. The doctor also suspected lymphoma, a disease that Carpenter’s great-grandfather had years earlier.

Individualized Cancer Treatment

Carpenter transferred to Saint Joseph Hospital where it was confirmed she had lymphoma.

“I was devastated,” Carpenter said. “I feared life was going to change dramatically.”

For a season, it did. The week after Thanksgiving 2022, Carpenter began chemotherapy. Every three weeks, she had another session. During this time, she lost her hair and her energy levels dropped, keeping her from going to the gym except for a few times.

Carpenter completed her chemotherapy in early April and went to see Dr. Burnett. She feared she would need to undergo radiation therapy next.

“Kaitlyn had a fairly unusual type of lymphoma, which has attributes of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” Dr. Burnett said. “The standard treatment usually includes radiation after chemotherapy, but I was not sure that was the right choice for her. ”

Change of Plan

Carpenter was young — only 26 — and Dr. Burnett knew that giving her radiation therapy, which would need to be administered near her breast and heart, could have significant long-term effects. So he presented Carpenter’s pre- and post-treatment imaging exams and medical history to the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center’s lymphoma tumor board.

Following an in-depth discussion, the multidisciplinary team reached a decision. If the cancer returned, radiation therapy may be necessary. Otherwise, Carpenter only needed follow-up scans.

“Our partnership really shines when dealing with rare cancers,” Dr. Burnett said. “It allows us to leverage the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center’s volume and experience, and that made all the difference for Kaitlyn.”

A Team Effort

Months after her final chemotherapy session, Carpenter is back to living her life with more ease. She breathes easily, even when exerting herself, and has plans to get back in the gym.

She’s especially thankful that she wasn’t prescribed radiation and attributes her overall success to a team effort.

“Knowing there were so many doctors held in high regard making my treatment decisions made me feel safe,” Carpenter said. “I couldn’t have done this without my team, the recommendation of the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center and my dad, who never missed a doctor’s appointment and was with me every step of my journey.”

A Patient-Focused Affiliation

2 Ways to a Second Opinion

Everyone who turns to CHI Saint Joseph Health for cancer care is unique. When the cancer is just as unique as you are, a second opinion from Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center helps guide complex treatment decisions.

There are two ways to get a second opinion through the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center:

  1. You request one. Ask your provider, who can present your imaging and test results to Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center subspecialists. They will discuss your case and determine the best way forward. Afterward, you’ll receive a summary of the discussion and recommendations. This service is free of charge for CHI Saint Joseph Health patients and is the most common method of receiving a second opinion.
  2. Your providers request one. Approximately 5% of cancers diagnosed at CHI Saint Joseph Health are rare. In these cases, your provider will likely reach out to Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center. These consultations may confirm or modify your treatment plan. Either way, your team moves forward with confidence.

“In essentially every patient case, care is touched by our affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center,” said Jessica Jones Croley, MD, hematologist, medical oncologist and medical director of CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Centers across central Kentucky. “This is very reassuring to patients, who know they’re receiving the best cancer care available.”

Looking for renowned cancer care, close to home? Get the same level of care available at academic cancer centers, right here at CHI Saint Joseph Health. Learn more.

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