Kim Bettencourt knows firsthand the important role in-person support groups offered by Doctors Hospital of Manteca can play in helping people combat cancer.
The radiology manager at Doctors Hospital notes participation in such gatherings helps ease concerns and address “the unknowns” that others who have gone through the same experience share. It also helps that a registered nurse leads the sessions and is able to secure answers to questions from medical professionals as opposed to someone simply trying to wade through the Internet that is often fraught with misinformation or information that may be taken out of context.
It is why Bettencourt — as well as cancer patients — were pleased Doctors Hospital was able to restart breast cancer support group meetings last month after they had been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group meets the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the hospital’s conference center, 1205 North Street. Upcoming dates for the free support groups open to those dealing with cancer regardless whether they are being treated at Doctors Hospital of Manteca are Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16, and Dec. 21.
Each meeting has a different topic and often a guest speaker in addition to interaction between the attendees. There also from time-to-time are different surgeons attending who will share what to expect before and after surgery.
If you have questions about the support group call (209) 239-8382.
The sharing of such knowledge is invaluable, according to breast health coordinator Stephanie Dampier.
Doctors and nurses during the treatment process are more often than not able to spend a lot of time with patients.
“They don’t have the time to spend an hour or so interacting with patients,” Dampier said.
It is why support group participation is an effective way to help cancer patients better understand what they are dealing with, to better prepare for challenges, and to put things into perspective.
Group also open to those
dealing with other cancers
The group, while designed for breast cancer patients, is open to all who are dealing with cancer regardless of age due to the dearth of support groups for other forms of cancer.
Last month the topic was how the pandemic had an effect on health care.
“Telemedicine isn’t an effective replacement for in-person human treatment,” she said.
As such everything from robust mammogram testing, patient consultations, and support groups that play a key role in helping patients fell to the wayside.
“Cancer didn’t take a year off for COVID,” Bettencourt noted.
Trends back up her point. Since pandemic protocols have eased, people have started to resume normal routines that include the recommended annual mammograms for women over 40. The result has been an upward swing in the number of people detected with cancer. As with almost all cancers the earlier it is detected typically the better the treatment outcome.
“The primary focus (of the support groups) is the individual patients dealing with breast cancer,” Bettencourt said. “(But) all individuals with cancers are welcome to attend.”
For those that are shy about attending a support group meeting, Dampier suggests they bring a friend for support to help them break the ice.
Dampier stressed that the more people know about what they are dealing with the higher their comfort level of handling it. And while she can’t give medical advice as a group leader, she can take such questions to those that can and get back to the person.
As a breast health coordinator and registered nurse Dampier serves as a navigator for breast cancer patients. She helps guide patients through the diagnostic evaluation period, up to and through a diagnosis of cancer by providing emotional support, education and resources.
Bettencourt, who has been with Doctors Hospital for 29 years including 27 years in radiology, notes the level of breast cancer care at the medical facility, is in many instances on a higher level than others in the region.
“You don’t have to go to Stockton or San Francisco to get good care,” she noted.
The hospital has been consistently certified as a Quality Breast Center of Excellence by the National Quality Measurement for Breast Center Program.
Doctors Hospital of Manteca has received the same level of certification for screening and mammograms as Stanford and the University of San Francisco.
By November Doctors Hospital expects to have equipment at its Women’s Imaging Center in place to allow it to conduct 3-D mammograms.
“It (3-D) will allow us to see more minute details,” Bettencourt said.
As such the hospital will be able to detect breast cancer issues even earlier to further improve the odds of a positive outcome of treatment.
A 3-D mammogram releases the same amount of radiation as a traditional mammogram. It is of no greater risk to the patient than a traditional mammography.
Services available at
Comprehensive screening and diagnostic services are available in the Women’s Imaging Center including mammography, breast ultrasound, breast biopsies and breast coil MRI. The center provides a continuum of services under one roof, providing ease and accessibility to patients.
Prostate brachytherapy services are available at DHM from multiple providers in the community. Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer. Prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources in the prostate gland, where the radiation can kill the cancer cells while causing less damage to healthy tissue nearby.
Patients in Manteca have access to a full range of oncology services, including:
*Screening and diagnosis through high quality imaging modalities including PET/CT. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans detect early signs of cancer, heart disease and brain disorders.
*Several community providers on staff at DHM can perform surgical excisions of cancerous elements across multiple body systems.
*Other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment are available locally through our community partners from both independent oncology groups in Manteca, Valley Cancer Medical Center and Stockton Hematology/Oncology.
“We may be small as a hospital but we are mighty in this department,” Dampier said of Doctors Hospital breast health center.
For more information on screenings or mammograms contact the hospital at (209) 823-3111.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com