Find your cancer treatment team.
Cancer treatment is stressful enough without also being concerned that you chose the right cancer team to help you and your family through this ordeal. It is important for patients and their families to trust and feel comfortable with their cancer care team.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?
In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rachel Swart.
Dr. Rachel Swart is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at Arizona Oncology. She treats a variety of malignancies in women with a specialty in breast cancer. She also directs the practice’s high-risk breast cancer clinic. In 2016, she developed a survivorship program and clinic. Currently, she leads Arizona Oncology’s Tucson division’s breast cancer clinical trials program.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Bakersfield, California. My father was an immigrant to this country from Ecuador having received an education as a civil engineer. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I have 2 younger sisters. For my parents, family and an education were the most important values that they wanted to instill in us. I enjoyed going to school and was very active in after school volleyball, ballet dancing and marching band.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Unfortunately, my mother’s sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was in 6th grade. My mother traveled frequently to my aunt’s house for two years to care for her through her treatments. My sisters and I would travel with her when possible to play with my cousins often at the cancer center while she received treatments. When my family returned home after her funeral, I looked up what an oncologist does and that is when I announced to my family that I wanted to be in oncology. It was after my mother had her first breast cancer diagnosis, when I was in college that I was determined to be an oncologist specializing in breast cancer.
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
My primary motivation is the patients and being able to support them and their families through a complicated and often overwhelming cancer diagnosis.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am currently on the board for the Arizona Oncology Foundation. This non-profit organization helps to support patients who are undergoing cancer treatment with lodging, gas cards, housekeeping services, counseling, nutrition programs, wigs, prostheses, and integrative therapy options. My role has been assisting with fundraising events to support our services as well as edit the oncology information that is provided on-line and at the office.
I am also coordinating our Arizona Oncology 2022 Survivorship Program for our Tucson community. This program helps patients and families obtain information on topics ranging from long term effects of cancer treatment to how to cope with the fear of cancer recurrence.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of Cancer?
I completed a combined MD/PhD program at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. My PhD focused on how cancer cells signal growth (Signal Transduction/Cell Biology). I completed 3 years of internal medicine training followed by fellowship training in Hematology/Oncology at the University of Arizona. I have been a medical oncologist since 2008 subspecializing in breast cancer. I have participated on multiple breast oncology advisory boards. I have been and currently am a principal investigator of over 100 breast cancer clinical trials.