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Medical Oncology

medical oncology

Our department

The Medical Oncology Department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) specializes in diagnosing cancer and delivering treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy/targeted therapy and hormone therapy personalized to your needs.

Developing your treatment plan

For most of our patients, a medical oncologist serves as their primary doctor. Your initial visit to CTCA® will typically last three to five days. During this time, you will meet with a variety of doctors, including your medical oncologist, as well as clinicians from surgery, radiology, nutrition, naturopathic medicine and oncology rehabilitation.

Our medical oncologists work in tandem with these clinicians to provide therapies that minimize the side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments. During your stay, your medical oncologist will review your full diagnosis and medical history, and order additional diagnostic testing and evaluations.

At the end of your diagnostic evaluation, your medical oncologist will present you with a cancer treatment plan personalized to your needs. You and your medical oncologist will discuss the advanced treatment options that are available for your type and stage of cancer, and determine which options may be right for you.

If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your medical oncologist will coordinate your dosage and schedule. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other treatment modalities like targeted therapies, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Throughout your care, your medical oncologist will work closely with you to monitor your chemotherapy regimen to make sure it continues to work for you, and help reduce side effects and toxicity.

An individualized approach

Patient Empowered Care®, our unique model of care at CTCA, brings a dedicated team of cancer experts together on a daily basis. Your medical oncologist will communicate regularly with the rest of your care team throughout your treatment. He or she will monitor the progress of your treatment and help manage side effects like gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue and insomnia, and neuropathy. Your entire care team takes every measure to help you tolerate treatments, stay active and enjoy a good quality of life.

Throughout your treatment, you’ll undergo diagnostic imaging and lab tests which will allow your medical oncologist to follow the progress of your treatment. If the cancer is resisting treatment, or you are not tolerating it, your medical oncologist will modify your treatment plan or recommend using a different therapy.

The medical oncology team at Eastern

The Department of Medical Oncology at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center (Eastern) is comprised of an experienced and compassionate team of cancer professionals.

Dr. Rudolph Willis, medical oncologist and Vice Chief of Staff for Clinical Affairs, leads the department of oncologists, oncology nurse practitioners, registered nurses and support staff. Dr. Willis has extensive experience in the field, which includes a fellowship, research and training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancer institute.

With our Patient Empowered Care® clinic, you and your caregiver enjoy greater comfort and convenience by meeting with your care team in one room. In the clinic, your medical oncologist, clinic nurse, registered dietitian, naturopathic clinician and nurse care manager come to you, one after another, for a focused, seamless visit.

This means each time you meet with your medical oncologist, the entire team is automatically scheduled to meet with you as well, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling or finding time for additional appointments. You may also meet with clinicians from your extended care team as needed.

Innovations in chemotherapy

Since many patients come to Eastern with advanced stage disease, the medical oncology team is constantly challenging themselves to provide innovative new options.

Our medical oncologists continually seek out the latest research and technologies to uncover new cancer treatment options. We strive to come up with practical applications of standard drugs in a novel way that is not experimental so it does not require putting people in a protocol.

The team also has expertise in treating complex and advanced stage cancers. According to Dr. Willis, it is not just about the way the team approaches the disease, but how aggressively we treat it. “The fact is the majority of patients here—probably 75 percent of them—have advanced disease. So, we have to be aggressive and think outside of the box. We have to come up with novel ways to treat these patients,” he says.

“At this center, we have the resources and the tools to bring to the table not only new modalities, but even new drugs, and put them in place in a practical way,” Dr. Willis adds.

Improving quality of life during chemotherapy

To receive your chemotherapy treatments, you’ll visit the Infusion Center on the third floor of the hospital. Designed with your needs in mind, our Infusion Center is a calming environment that inspires relaxation. While you are there, a staff of kind, attentive infusion nurses will cater to your needs and make you as comfortable as possible.

Your care team will be as proactive as possible in anticipating and managing side effects so you can better tolerate your treatments and enjoy life. Prior to administering chemotherapy, your infusion nurses may provide pre-medications (prescribed by your medical oncologist) to decrease nausea and make your symptoms more tolerable.

The medical oncology team also meets daily with each other to discuss patient care. Three times a week, the entire clinical team at Eastern comes together for endorsement meetings. “At these meetings, everyone comes together from all different disciplines to talk about patients. It puts everyone on the same page,” Dr. Willis says.

For instance, let’s say you are undergoing chemotherapy and you aren’t eating well because of nausea. In this setting, your oncologist and dietitian can share knowledge to decide the best way to help you. In the process of this collaboration, they may suggest that you receive your treatment at night so you can eat better during the day. A naturopathic clinician may then suggest a natural agent to help curb your nausea.

“I believe there is no greater or better treatment than integration of all modalities in a complementary fashion when you are managing oncology,” says Dr. Willis. “We interact and make adjustments to accommodate what is best for the patient. This team approach is the essence of what we do,” he adds.

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