EL DORADO — Stephanie Killian didn’t know she was going to love her position so much. Since she became the diabetes quality control coordinator and nurse navigator at Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital in El Dorado, she has seen first-hand what difference education and change can make.
“I cannot believe the amount of lives that we touch every week and being able to see the statistics, see the blood sugars coming down, see how happy and proud everyone is with themselves,” Killian said. “Physicians have said, ‘Hey, thanks so much for your help. We are really proud of this patient.’ It is phenomenal.”
November is both Diabetes and Lung Cancer awareness month. Killian, as well as Jamie Richards, radiation oncology manager, work in separate programs targeting the two diseases with one goal: early detection and prevention for patients.
In 2016, SBA acquired a large bore CT scanner and the Cancer Center program for low-dose CT chest screenings began shortly afterwards in 2017. For lung cancer, early detection can be the difference between relative ease in treatment, to invasive action, Richards said.
“The earlier we can detect it, the more likely it is going to be treatable and curable,” she said. “Along those same lines, we also started our stereotactic radiation therapy program around that same time. What that allows us to do is, if we catch those lung cancers early to where we can treat them with radiation alone, those patients can forgo having their chest cut open, having surgery, having chemotherapy, all of the other things that go along with it, and just get three to five high-dose treatments of radiation. It is showing just as good of treatments as surgery.”
The program centers around high-risk individuals with smoking history. If an individual qualifies, insurance covers the cost of the screening, Richards said.
In the past two years, the program has grown in the number of patients getting screens for early detection. In its first year, 38 individuals were screened, jumping all the way to 121 in 2018. Through October, 115 individuals have been screened in 2019.
For now, the program only covers those with smoking history, but Richards added there new trials geared towards second-hand smoke in progress. She also added doctors do not know yet the long-term effects of vaping in the younger generation.
Killian offered similar rhetoric for diabetes — a disease that affects 80 million people in the United States, she said. The Center for Disease Control lists diabetes as the seventh-highest killer annually in the United States on its website.
SBA’s program focuses on education and meeting patient goals.
The best part of her job is seeing the successes, Killian said.
“There was someone who came into the hospital. They had not had a follow-up. Their blood sugar was significantly high,” she said. “They followed our recommendations, tried very hard, followed through and are now doing fantastic. It is not only [diabetes], it is weight loss, cholesterol, blood pressure, all also came down with that.”