From interviews with:
Dr. Rajesh Bajaj, McLeod Oncology & Hematology Associates
Dr. Virginia Clyburn-Ipock, MRMC Radiation Oncology
Behind each cancer diagnosis, there is a patient and their loved ones. That knowledge, combined with new and better cancer treatments, improves patient outcomes, says McLeod Cancer Specialists Dr. Rajesh Bajaj and Virginia Clyburn-Ipock. Here is a summary of the physicians’ comments:
Dr. Rajesh Bajaj
We have so many new medications to offer cancer patients. Some of the cancers, which were incurable in the past, are now routinely cured or controlled like a chronic disease. The treatments have become easier. The supportive care has become so much better. Radiation techniques have evolved. In oncology, everything changes rapidly.
In practice, you learn that you’re treating not just cancer; you’re treating cancer in a patient. So, you have to tailor the treatment specifically to the patient’s needs, their condition and personal goals.
We have to talk to the patient and the family. The medicine part — what I’m supposed to do for the cancer – is something I already know, well before I even enter the room. However, I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing until I actually meet the patient, talk with them, see what their physical condition is, see their environment, who their support is and what they can and cannot have.
Obviously, I cannot prescribe a very aggressive treatment for somebody who is very frail. And I don’t want to necessarily give very aggressive treatment to somebody who doesn’t want it. These are the variables that a physician has to consider when making decisions about patient care.
Dr. Virginia Clyburn-Ipock
Radiation Oncology is a component of treatment that patients may experience once they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. There are three components: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Radiation comes broadly in two major forms. We can use external beam radiation, which comes from a machine using X-ray beams to target tumors inside the body. Another form of radiation is internal radiation, where we use radioactive isotopes, which is called brachytherapy. A patient may be treated with one or the other. Sometimes we use a combination of both radiation therapies to treat specific types of cancer.
When a patient gets external beam radiation, they have a daily treatment (Monday through Friday), for approximately 4-8 weeks, depending on the area we are treating. Using Stereotactic Radiosurgery, which is available at McLeod, the length and number of treatments can be reduced to a mere handful.
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