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Making it Personal: Advances in cancer technology

Making it Personal: Advances in cancer technology

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
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When you get a diagnosis of cancer, the fight to survive becomes personal.  A unique set of challenges faces each cancer patient.  This special episode of TV Smart Talk, "Making It Personal," highlights advances like targeted-light therapy, robotic-assisted surgery and clinical trials now underway to find a recovery path that makes the most sense for each patient.


Facing Cancer Together  is witf’s multimedia, interactive, community-education initiative to foster conversation about issues surrounding cancer.  Our partners include WellSpan Health,PinnacleHealth, and Lancaster General Health.  In this episode, we explore the high-tech developments, some pioneered right here in Central PA, that fuel cancer-research, treatment and prevention -- all designed to save lives.

Scroll down to view part one of the show, and click here to view the show in it's entirety.

Today, two-thirds of patients will survive five years after first getting a cancer diagnosis.  In 1975, just half of the patients would live to that milestone.  What’s fueling the pace of progress?  And, what are some of the most exciting advances that have a practical effect on the cancer care Central Pennsylvanians can receive?  Our guests will help answer those questions and more.  They include Dr. Brij M. Sood, Fox Chase Cancer Center, director of Radiation Oncology at PinnacleHealth, Dr. Shanthi Sivendran, Lancaster General Health Hematology/Oncology Specialists, Dr. Percival Buenaventura, Thoracic Surgical Oncologists, WellSpan Health, and Dr. Anthony J. Olszanski, director, Phase 1 Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia.

ct-scan-cancer-careDr. Buenaventura at WellSpan Health deals primarily with patients who have malignancies of the chest, including cancers of the lung and esophagus.  In the past, a diagnosis of lung cancer was often a death sentence.  That’s not necessarily true today.  “The best chance of cure is detection early,” Dr. Buenaventura notes,  “And, the cost of lung cancer care is significantly lower if you find it early.”

One of the major advances in lung-cancer treatment in 2011 involved performing low-dose computed tomography (CT) scanning of high-risk patients.  According to a report this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a national study of 50,000 current and former heavy smokers “found that three annual low-dose CT scans reduced the risk of dying from lung cancer by 20% compared with those who were screened with three annual chest  X-rays.  This landmark trial was the first to identify a screening regimen for patients at high risk for lung cancer, despite decades of attempts.”

Dr. Buenaventura says another exciting advance involves minimally-invasive surgery options for lung-cancer patients.  “Instead of having a cut, you have a couple of small incisions, put a camera in there, and basically do all of these surgeries that previously would have required a big incision on the chest, much longer hospitalization and more debilitating effects, basically now, you do them robotically.” For more information on WellSpan’s lung-cancer treatment options, check out its 2010 Annual Report.

cancer-labDr. Anthony J. Olszanski of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, is an expert on clinical trials.  Dr. Olszanski’s online bio sums up his attitude about the need to personalize cancer treatment.  He writes, “I believe that the path towards treating any disease is best navigated by thoroughly understanding not only the disease, but also the patient. Good communication between a physician and a patient is especially critical in the treatment of cancer. Each patient has a right to be both respected and heard. In addition, relying on a team of experts to help manage the complexities of treating cancer is essential for success. As a physician, I strive to provide personalized and scientifically sound care to each of my patients.”

 cancer-advances-and-breakthroughsDr. Olszanski points out three factors he asks his patients to bear in mind when they enroll in a clinical trial. “Number one,” he says, “we rarely if ever use these placebo-controlled trials.  It’s one of the most frequently asked and misunderstood conceptions that we are treating patients with placebo but that is not usually the case.Secondly, in my opinion and in the opinion of the National Comprehensive Cancer Networks, the NCCN, the treatment on a clinical trial is actually preferred.  You get much better follow up, you have a bigger team that’s looking after you, and you get a lot better patient one-on-one care.  And, then thirdly, is that you really are doing something not only to move your own cancer forward, to treat yourself as appropriately as you can, but also the people, and there will be many, who come after you with cancer.”

cancer-scans-doctors-personalDr. Brij Sood, PinnacleHealth/Fox Chase Cancer Center, says cancer care has evolved rapidly over the last decade.  "No more is cancer one person's domain.  It's not just that there is an oncologist who knows what's best for the patient," he explains.  "It is now a multi-disciplinary team approach for cancer patients.  And cancer treatment is becoming more and more individualized based on various factors like the stage of the disease, the patient's general health, and the patient's way of thinking."  He says when doctors extract a piece of tissue for analysis, "each piece holds important information that would further separate that patient from other patients.  And remember, diagnosis and treatment are two different things.  Whether the treatment is surgical or radiation or chemotherapy or treatment based on individual molecular biomarkers, we are able to choose the best option for each patient."  Among the cutting-edge advances used at PinnacleHealth is the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.  Dr. Sood will explore its implications for cancer patients in the midstate.

Watch our previous community forums on cancer by clicking on the links below:

Breast Cancer Forum Part I: A community conversation about breast cancer

Breast Cancer Forum Part II: Voices of inspiration

Survivorship Forum Part I: Voices of survivors

Survivorship Forum Part II: Expert wisdom

Related Video

Watch Making It Personal Community Forum on PBS. See more from Smart Talk.

A message from the Facing Cancer Together team: We invite you to join us in this community partnership. Share. Connect. Learn. No matter how cancer has affected you, our multimedia tools can help you gain confidence in your choices. In the coming months, this site will evolve with your participation. Meet the team!

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witf Lancaster General Health Pinnacle Health System Wellspan
witf Pinnacle Health System Wellspan Lancaster General Health
witf Wellspan Lancaster General Health Pinnacle Health System