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June 25, 2010 > Cancer Care: Local, Compassionate and Effective

Cancer Care: Local, Compassionate and Effective

InHealth Television Program Gives an Overview of Community Cancer Program

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you want to know that the care and the resources available to you are among the best.

To get an in-depth overview of Washington Hospital's Community Cancer Program - which recently received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) - tune into Washington Hospital's InHealth Channel on Comcast Channel 78.

During the upcoming show that will be air next month titled: Voices InHealth: Washington's Community Cancer Program, InHealth anchor and local family practice physician Barbara Kostick, M.D. will host special guests to explore the Community Cancer Program.

Cancer care for the community

"The program offers diagnostic and treatment services for adults with all types of cancer," explains Vandana B. Sharma, M.D. Ph.D., medical director of Washington Hospital's Cancer Genetics Program, during the program.

She points out that Washington Hospital was the only hospital in Alameda County and one of only four hospitals in California to be awarded the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award level of distinction.

Dr. Sharma and Marianne Heltzel, Washington Hospital's Tumor Registry Coordinator, give a summary of the program's services, from cancer screening and treatment to cancer genetics counseling and patient support services.

But it's not just what services are offered, according to Dr. Sharma. It's how they are provided.

"Coordinated care is very important for a patient with cancer," Dr. Sharma explains. "The treatment of cancer involves multidisciplinary care from a surgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist."

Additionally, the hospital's tumor board provides a forum for physicians to present cases and optimize patient management from the onset of the patient's diagnosis, which, as Dr. Kostick points out, is a lot like getting second - and third - opinions about a patient's treatment without the need for additional appointments.

Part of Heltzel's mission as the hospital's tumor registry coordinator is to capture the data of existing patients and the 700 new patients the program treats each year.

"(The database) allows Washington Hospital to be able to analyze the data according to national and state data to be sure patients are getting high quality care," Heltzel says.

Treatment with a human touch

The show's next guests - Michael Bastasch, M.D., radiation oncologist at the Washington Radiation Oncology Center, and Alice Santos, R.N., nursing director in the patient care services division - turn their attention to the treatment process, including how radiation oncology fits into cancer treatment.

"It's an important component because two-thirds of all cancer patients at some point in their disease process require the services of a radiation oncologist, and that includes definitive care or palliative care to alleviate symptoms," says Dr. Bastasch.

Dr. Bastasch delves into how the treatment process works from the time a patient sees his or her primary care physician to the point when experts in different modalities of cancer treatment discuss the most effective treatment pathway for each individual patient.

Santos addresses the very human aspect of cancer care and how certified oncology nurses play a vital role in the overall care of the patient.

"Sometimes it can be very challenging when you get a diagnosis of cancer, and you get a lot of information and a lot of decisions to make," she says. "As nurses, we want to support (the patient) in that decision-making."

Of the treatment process, Dr. Bastasch says it's important to see things from the patient's point of view.

"You have to sit with your colleagues and say, 'If I were in this patient's position, what would be some treatment options?'"

The patient experience

The final guest of the program is Cheryl Haynes, Pleasanton mother of two boys. In January 2008, Cheryl discovered a lump in one of her breasts.

Her doctor sent her for a mammogram, and when the result came back negative, she had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to confirm the diagnosis.

"The results showed that I did indeed have breast cancer and that's when the anxiety started," Haynes relates.

She began asking friends and neighbors about treatment programs and was directed to Washington Hospital's Community Cancer Program.

"The girls in the office were very reassuring and said, 'We're going to take good care of you,' and that was a relief for me making the first phone call," she says.

After she met with the team of doctors in the Community Cancer Program, she says her sense of feeling overwhelmed continued to dissolve.

"I felt like I had options and I felt they treated me as an individual."

Tune In & Learn More

Hear more of Haynes' story and learn more about Washington Hospital's Community Cancer Program on the InHealth Channel, Comcast Channel 78. You can also watch this program online on the InHealth web site. Visit to watch every show currently on the InHealth television schedule. To see upcoming airdates, visit the website or see the printed schedule in the weekly Tri-City Voice newspaper.

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