The Gynecologic Oncology Department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) specializes in treating women with cancer of the reproductive organs, including ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
What is a gynecologic oncologist?
A gynecologic oncology specialist is a medical doctor who receives an additional three to four years of training after completing a four year residency in obstetrics and gynecology. During this training, he or she acquires highly specialized expertise to stage, diagnose and treat all types of gynecologic cancer.
A gynecologic oncologist is trained to perform surgical procedures to remove as much cancer as possible, while sparing healthy tissue. These procedures often involve nearby organs and may include: colon resection, splenectomy and removal of tumors from the diaphragm.
In addition to learning these specialized surgical techniques, a gynecologic oncologist is trained to provide chemotherapy and comprehensive oncology care to a woman throughout the course of cancer treatment.
How is gynecologic cancer treatment different at CTCA?
As a gynecologic cancer patient exploring treatment options at CTCA, you’ll meet with a gynecologic oncologist and your other care team members on your first visit. They oversee every aspect of their patients’ care – from surgery and chemotherapy to nutrition therapy.
After reviewing your medical records and health history, and performing a pelvic exam, your oncologist will order the appropriate diagnostic tests to determine the best course of treatment. These may include imaging scans, as well as blood tests.
You will meet again with your gynecologic oncologist, generally within two to three days of your first visit, to discuss the test results. Your oncologist will share the treatment options that are available to you, as well as the ways in which integrative oncology services can be incorporated into your cancer treatment plan.
Explore gynecologic oncology procedures
How often do you get treatment?
Once you’ve begun gynecological oncology treatment at CTCA, you’ll meet with your team approximately every three to four weeks in our Patient Empowered Care® clinic. Each time, you’ll undergo a comprehensive set of blood tests and a physical exam. Each visit, you’ll also see every member of your treatment team, including your dietitian, naturopathic oncology provider and care manager.
Fertility concerns for younger women
We consider fertility issues for younger women, and we provide support for all women who experience sexual side effects as a result of cancer treatment, through our Survivorship Support Program.
If you want to preserve your fertility during cancer treatment, your oncologist can discuss with you a variety of fertility-sparing procedures and whether they might be right for you.
Individualized treatment and collaboration
The gynecologic oncology team tailors treatment plans to the individual patient. “We really try to think outside the box. We individualize treatment using evidence-based medicine, tailoring a program to each patient. Your treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy or therapy with a monoclonal antibody. It all depends on your unique case and preferences," says Dr. Williams.
The gynecologic oncology team also works closely with the hospital's other clinical departments to integrate treatments. Dr. Williams describes how she collaborates with gastroenterologist Dr. Pankaj Vashi:
“Many of my patients have ovarian cancer, which literally affects their ability to eat and absorb foods. A large portion of these patients are somewhat malnourished when they come to us seeking treatment. That’s why working with Dr. Vashi for nutrition and metabolic support is essential. Together we address our ovarian cancer patients’ nutritional needs as they undergo chemotherapy and other treatments.”
Reconstructive surgery may also be an option for gynecologic oncology patients. These procedures are performed by Dr. Stephen Ray, Medical Director of Oncoplastic and Reconstructive Surgery, typically on the same day as the other surgical procedure(s) performed.