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Leading-Edge Cancer Care, Right in Your Own Backyard

January 18, 2011

Your time is valuable. Your health is priceless. So why waste precious time driving miles away to an impersonal big-city or academic hospital for cancer treatments when you have outstanding, personalized services right here in your own community?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you naturally want to find the best possible medical care. And that’s exactly what you receive at Washington Hospital’s Community Cancer Program. In fact, last year the Cancer Care Program received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer (COC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

An accredited COC program since 1993 and a ACS-designated Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program, Washington Hospital is one of only four hospitals in California and one of 82 hospitals in the country to receive this award since its inception in 2005.

One important component of Washington Hospital’s Community Cancer Program is the Washington Radiation Oncology Center that features leading-edge technology and is staffed by board-certified radiation oncologists – doctors with specialized training in the use of radiation to treat cancer.

The radiation oncology team also includes a medical physicist who is certified by the American Board of Radiology and a medical dosimetrist who is certified by the Medical Dosimetry Certification Board. The center’s radiation therapists are licensed by the State of California. All of these practitioners go through rigorous training and must take continuing education courses to keep up with the latest treatment technology.

"New technologies in radiation therapy have dramatically improved both the effectiveness and safety of treatment, increasing the rate of survival and decreasing the rate of recurrence," says Dr. Michael Bastasch, a radiation oncologist at the Radiation Oncology Center.

"We offer the full gamut of radiation therapy treatments including intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)," Dr. Bastasch says. "Using radiation therapy in combination with high-resolution CT scans, MRIs and PET scans, we can provide more accurate treatments and decrease the amount of normal tissue being exposed to radiation."

IMRT technology, allows physicians to adjust the intensity and shape of radiation beams to deliver high doses of radiation directly to the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. IGRT combines imaging and treatment capabilities in a single machine. With IGRT, physicians can pinpoint the exact location of tumors before each dose of radiation is delivered, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissue.

"IGRT allows us to adjust our treatments to compensate for the movement of tumors during the course of treatment," Dr. Bastasch explains. "Also, we can combine PET scans with IGRT to help define and target the biologically active areas of tumors, further improving the accuracy of radiation treatment."

According to Dr. Bastasch, the most conventional standard course of radiation therapy treatments runs approximately six weeks, with daily treatments Monday through Friday. "The actual treatment lasts only about 10 minutes," he says. "With the high-quality of treatment available here at Washington Hospital, local patients don’t have to drive an hour or more each way to another facility to receive a 10-minute treatment."

Dr. Bastasch notes that in addition to providing top-quality radiation therapy, the Community Cancer Program offers other advantages.

"Our integration of care, with a multidisciplinary team of specialists, is a great asset," he says. "We have regular meetings of a Tumor Board to review all aspects of our patients’ treatment – oncology, chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Because our facility is smaller than the ‘big-name’ major medical centers, it’s easier to gather the appropriate physicians together, and we work very closely as a team.

"Also, at the Breast Center, we have breast cancer patients and their spouses or another family member present at meetings of the Tumor Board," he adds. "It gives the patient more opportunities to learn about her condition and treatment plan and to review her questions and concerns. Participating in Tumor Board meetings gives the patient a sense of ownership and involvement in her own treatment. That’s something that is not readily available at university facilities and other large medical centers."

Learn More About Cancer Care
To learn more about the treatment services offered at the Washington Radiation Oncology Center, call (510) 796-7212. To learn more about the Community Cancer Program at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/cancer.

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