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Medical oncologists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center (Southeastern) are skilled in treating many types of cancer, including complex and advanced-stage disease. Therefore, many patients initially come to CTCA for a second, or even third, opinion.
Our medical oncologists use advanced imaging technologies to examine how cancer is affecting the body, so that they can develop your individualized cancer treatment plan. The oncologists encourage and expect you to ask questions because we believe in empowering you through knowledge.
What Is Medical Oncology?
Medical oncology involves diagnosing and treating cancer with medicine, such as chemotherapy and other drugs, like immunotherapy.
Chemotherapeutic drugs damage cancer cells at different stages in their growth process. Chemotherapy is usually delivered intravenously or taken orally. It may be administered alone or in combination with other treatments such as surgery and/or radiation therapy.
Your medical oncologist will evaluate you based on cancer type, stage, location and symptoms, alongside personal needs and lifestyle preferences. This will help to determine the necessary chemotherapy type, dosage and scheduling.
If you and your care team decide that chemotherapy would suit your cancer treatment needs, you will visit the Infusion Center on the second floor of the hospital to receive treatments.
Biological therapies, or immunotherapies, send a signal to your immune system to fight cancer. This type of treatment is lesser known, compared with chemotherapy, but may provide an effective way of fighting cancer.
The Medical Oncology Team
The medical oncologists at Southeastern are determined to find the appropriate treatment for each patient. They thoroughly review your medical history and current condition and offer recommendations for your cancer treatment.
“My focus is on providing compassionate and individualized care for my patients as I help them through their journey with cancer,” says Brion Randolph, MD, hematologist and medical oncologist with Southeastern. As the hospital grows, the team will continue to expand and welcome new clinicians.
Developing Your Treatment Plan
Your initial visit to Southeastern will last three to five days. During this time, you will meet with a variety of departments, such as nutrition, naturopathic medicine, oncology rehabilitation, spiritual support and mind-body medicine. You will also meet with the traditional departments you may associate with cancer care, such as medical, surgical or radiation oncology. This is part of our commitment to whole-person care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit.
At the end of this comprehensive evaluation period, your Care Team will present your recommended cancer treatment plan. This period is very important as it allows your CTCA care team to understand your full diagnosis and medical history, in order to tailor your treatment plan to your personal and individual needs.
“Before I even meet with patients we have already reviewed their medical history and lab tests, and I have already spoken with everyone on the team to discuss recommendations and treatment options,” says Dr. Randolph. “That way, when we meet with a patient, we can suggest a combined plan from an integrated medicine standpoint that includes not just oncology recommendations, but also input from other team members.”
At CTCA, we believe in patient empowerment, which means the final decisions are always up to you. Your medical oncologist will sit down and talk with you – and your family members if you’d like – about the advanced treatment options that are available for your specific stage and type of cancer. They provide clear information, and will work with you to select treatments that are right for your individual needs.
A Thorough Evaluation
One of the tools your medical oncologist may use to develop your treatment plan is the Extreme Drug Resistance (EDR) Assay, also called chemoresistance. The EDR assay is a highly accurate tool CTCA clinicians use to test solid tumors outside of the body for resistance to specific chemotherapeutic drugs.
By testing the drugs outside of the body, your clinicians can determine whether the drugs will work if administered in the body. Thus, the EDR assay avoids unnecessary toxicity to you. It also allows your care team to consider protocols for other, more appropriate treatments.
Our Integrative Approach to Care
Your medical oncologist is just one part of your Care Team, as we believe in taking an integrative, whole-person approach to care.
You and your caregiver also enjoy greater comfort and convenience by meeting with your Care Team in one room. Our Patient Empowered Care® clinic brings your medical oncologist, clinic nurse, registered dietitian, naturopathic clinician and nurse care manager to you. This results in a more convenient, focused and seamless visit.
Chemotherapy & Other Advanced Medical Treatments for Cancer
Your medical oncologist may recommend chemotherapy and/or another cancer-fighting drug as a treatment for cancer. Below are general types of medication our medical oncologists regularly use.
Our medical oncologists deliver a wide variety of chemotherapy options which may help to reduce side effects and toxicity. These chemotherapy deliveries options include:
- Continuous Infusion Chemotherapy
- High-Dose Chemotherapy
- Intrathecal Chemotherapy
- Maintenance Chemotherapy
Soon, Southeastern will also offer the following chemotherapy treatment options as well:
Sometimes, chemotherapy is used in combination with other drug therapies, such as immunotherapies (also called biotherapies), to enhance its effects. The following are examples of immunotherapies we provide:
Some of the most promising developments in cancer treatment are emerging from the field of targeted therapy. With targeted drugs, we’re able to target and attack cancer cells, and stop the cells from growing, dividing and spreading. Whereas standard chemotherapy affects cells throughout the body—both cancerous and normal—targeted drugs seek out the cancer cells. Healthy cells are left relatively unharmed. As a result, patients who receive targeted therapy tend to experience less severe side effects.
Our medical oncologists use targeted therapy to treat some cancers, oftentimes in conjunction with chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. Monoclonal antibodies (e.g., Herceptin®, Avastin®), in addition to small-molecule inhibitors (e.g., Tarceva®, Gleevec®) are two types of targeted therapy we use to help fight cancer.
For certain types of cancer, such as breast or prostate cancer, hormones can fuel the disease and cause it to grow. Our medical oncologists employ hormone therapy to help prevent cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. Oftentimes, we use a combination of hormone therapy and chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to attack the disease on multiple fronts.
Taking Care of the Entire You
Contact with your medical oncologist never ceases during the treatment process. He or she will monitor the progress of your treatment and attempt to limit potential side effects of anticancer drugs such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sore mouth, diarrhea and constipation. We want your quality of life to be better and your entire care team takes every measure to help you tolerate treatments, stay active and enjoy life.
To assist in preventing and maintaining side effects, your medical oncologist meets regularly with rest of the departments that make up your Care Team, in order to monitor your treatment and make sure that you are as comfortable as possible. For example, your naturopathic clinician may recommend supplements to reduce nausea, while your mind-body therapist can recommend techniques to help you relax and feel less anxious during your soft tissue sarcoma chemotherapy treatments.
“The multi-dimensional approach to care that we offer allows for our patients to be aware of numerous other options to help improve their quality of life during cancer treatment,” says Dr. Randolph.