Breast cancer survivor helps others with diagnosis

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Ann Proffitt turned her breast cancer diagnosis five years ago into a way to help other Northern Nevada women.

"She is a breast cancer survivor who founded the cancer research center after she discovered there was nowhere to get information about treatment options and support groups," explained Carla Brutico, manager of Cancer Services at Carson-Tahoe Hospital.

The Cancer Services Resource Center that she started as a result of her diagnosis has served thousands of people since - more than 2,000 people in 2004 alone.

With the help of a physician at Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Proffitt, who was a nurse there, directed the beginnings of the center, which is located in the Adams House, at 990 N. Minnesota St. The center will remain on the old hospital campus until the new cancer center is finished, expected to be in late summer.

"The resource center will be a very important part of that cancer center," said Brutico. "We'll be right there."

Of the 644 people treated for cancer at Carson-Tahoe Hospital in 2004, 94 of them had breast cancer. Proffitt, who was in Mexico at the time of this story, made sure the resource center provided information to all people with all types of cancer. It doesn't matter where the patient is being treated.

"We are a totally free service," Brutico said. "We work with diagnosed patients. We also work with their families, friends and caregivers. What we try to do is empower patients, family, etc., with education about the kind of cancer they've been diagnosed with, understanding about the treatments and side effects, and information about community resources."

The center offers financial-assistance programs, including grants for housing during treatments and assistance with travel. The center is the only of its kind in all of Nevada, Brutico said.

And it has received two national awards since opening: In 2002, the California-Pacific Award for Excellence in Patient Education and in 2001, the partner award certification for outstanding services to the underserved population of the Carson City and Tahoe regions.

There are six full-time staff, including Proffitt, who is the supervisor; Brutico; cancer coach Patrick Williams; cancer outreach nurse Michelle Rowan; registrar Larraine Tooker; data assistant Jude Greytak; and about eight part-time volunteers.

The center offers eight support groups: coping together with breast cancer; coping together with blood cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma); patients and family members dealing with cancer diagnoses; prostate cancer support group; caregiver support group; support group for parents of children with cancer; the Kangaroo Gang for cancers ending in -ostomy; and the breast cancer support group for Hispanic women, which just started this year, and is for Spanish-speaking women.

There are more than 2 million cancer survivors in the United States. Through the work of Tooker and Greytak, information on cancer patients at Carson-Tahoe Hospital is tallied in the state registry and then nationally to be included in such survivability numbers. The Cancer Services, Resource Center, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, can be reached at 885-4281.

"Ann gets all the credit," Brutico said. "She had the vision and made it real. She saw the need and did something about it. That's what's driven her and all of us all this time."

- Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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