Radiation oncology is one of the three main specialties involved in the successful treatment of cancer, along with surgical oncology and medical oncology. Experts in this field, known as radiation oncologists, advise patients as to whether radiation therapy will be useful for their cancer – and how it can best be safely and effectively delivered.
Here, Jeffrey Y.C. Wong, M.D., chair of radiation oncology at City of Hope, shares what he sees as the future of radiation oncology and the importance of this type of therapy in the treatment of cancer.
How and why did you decide to become a radiation oncologist?
I’ve always had an interest in the math, physics and engineering fields. I almost became an engineer, but decided to switch to oncology with a focus in medicine, and radiation oncology is a good blend of both. Radiation oncology is a blend of engineering, computer sciences, physics, biology and medicine, with the primary goal of helping people.
What inspires you daily to do the work you do?
I, along with my colleagues at City of Hope, have the opportunity to make a difference in patients” lives every day. For many patients, our therapies can help result in a cure of their cancer. We also have the opportunity to make a contribution to cancer research and advance the field of oncology. » Continue Reading
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Here, Bertram Yuh, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at City of Hope, explains the importance of understanding the risk factors for the disease and ways to reduce those risks, as well as overall prostate health.
“What are my prostate cancer risks?” That’s becoming a more common, and increasingly important, question.
A lot of men wonder what can be done to prevent or reduce their risk of prostate cancer. The good news is, there’s a lot of research being conducted in this area regarding risks and influencing factors.
We already know there are racial predilections, such as that African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and that, when they’re diagnosed, the cancer tends to be more aggressive. We also know that prostate cancer is less common in Asian-American and Hispanic men.
Further, while prostate cancer is certainly more common in older men, there is some recent clinical literature that states prostate cancer in younger men can be more aggressive. It is quite possible for a 47-year-old and a 77-year-old to have prostate cancers that behave differently.
I can’t treat every patient the same way just because their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or Gleason grades look the same. In my role as a urology oncologist, I need to look at the whole patient.
Learn more about getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.
Jennifer Linehan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor in City of Hope’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology in Antelope Valley, thought she knew all there was to know about treating prostate cancer. Then her father was diagnosed with the disease. This is her story.
My father is 69 years old, has no health problems, is very active and still works diligently every day, from 5 a.m. till the evening. He is always smiling, laughing and enjoying life no matter what comes his way. He is an inspiration to me.
About 12 months ago, I was waiting for him to send me his prostate specific antigen (PSA) results from his recent physical. I just wanted to take a look. He was busy at work and told me that his PSA number was fine. I asked my mom to email it to me anyway. His PSA score was 28. I was stunned. I re-read the number at least twice to make sure it didn’t read 2.8 instead of 28.
How could this be? I am a urologist. How did I miss this? My head spun as every worst-case scenario started to fill my mind. As I was trying to calm down, I realized he needed a prostate biopsy. I started to think about who would do his surgery. He needed to come to City of Hope. My thoughts were racing. I began to wonder how far the disease had spread.
Finally, I got the nerve to call my parents; they could hear that my voice was panicked. I was panicked. I knew the realities that came with a high PSA and being diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was trying to keep calm, but instead blurted out: “How did this happen? Hasn’t your primary care physician been checking?”
Apparently, my father had been given the option of having his PSA checked for the last five years, but he refused every time. He told me that it was easier not knowing and not getting checked, because he was feeling fine. I tried to explain to him that prostate cancer is a silent killer. Often, a man won’t have any symptoms until the disease has progressed into the spine. I took a deep breath, apologized for my overreaction, and walked my parents through the next steps.
I was supposed to be the calm one, in control, but it’s all so different when someone so close to you is diagnosed.
Christine Crews isn’t only a fitness enthusiast, she’s also a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Being active defines her life. So when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 30, she decided she absolutely couldn’t let the disease interfere with that lifestyle.
And it didn’t. For the next 15 years, Crews continued to run marathons, teach fitness classes and train 20 to 30 clients a week, all while fighting her bladder cancer with chemotherapy and periodic tumor removals.
Thanks to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), high school students across the state gained valuable hands-on experience with stem cell research this summer. City of Hope hosted eight of those students.
As part of the CIRM Creativity Awards program, the young scholars worked full time as members of our biomedical research teams. They received mentoring from physicians and scientists and interacted closely with each other and their mentors to gain firsthand practice in laboratory research with stem cells.
Through the Creativity Awards, CIRM supported students at nine institutions throughout the state. Students were encouraged to share their experiences through various social media outlets with videos, blog posts and Instagram photos.
The video, produced by student interns here at City of Hope, was named a favorite by CIRM and gained widespread attention from news media outlets including NBC4 Los Angeles, the Bay Area’s ABC7 and NBC4 in New York. Drawing from the hit movie “Frozen,” the video encourages stem cells (and presumably the students) to — you guessed it — “Let It Grow.”
Take a look, and join us in congratulating these creative young scientists.
Donating blood and platelets saves lives. We all know this. Yet every summer, potential blood donors become distracted by vacations and schedule changes. As a result, blood donations fall dramatically across the nation, leaving hospitals frantically trying to bring in much-needed blood for their patients.
Earlier this week, the American Red Cross sent out an urgent appeal for blood, reporting that donations are down about 8 percent over the past 11 weeks. “The shortfall is significant enough that the Red Cross could experience an emergency situation in the coming weeks,” the organization said on its website.
Hospitals with trauma and emergency departments aren’t the only institutions that need blood. City of Hope patients need more than 37,000 units of blood and platelets each year. In comparison, City of Hope’s Michael Amini Transfusion Medicine Center brings in about 22,300 units of blood and platelets each year, not nearly enough to meet the hospital’s needs. » Continue Reading
To be a great cancer hospital, you need a great oncology program. Just ask City of Hope – and Becker’s Hospital Review.
The health care publishing industry stalwart, described as the “leading hospital magazine for hospital business news and analysis for hospital and health system executives,” recently selected City of Hope to its 2014 edition of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.”
The inclusion on the list likely comes as no surprise to City of Hope patients and their families, but outside recognition of top quality is always welcome. In offering its list, Becker’s Hospital Review includes this important note: “Organizations cannot pay for inclusion on this list.”
That’s an important distinction, one that isn’t always true for many such lists. » Continue Reading
Diagnostic errors are far from uncommon. In fact, a recent study found that they affect about 12 million people, or 1 in 20 patients, in the U.S. each year.
With cancer, those errors in diagnosis can have a profound impact. A missed or delayed diagnosis can make the disease that much harder to treat, as the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research recently noted in calling attention to the diagnostic errors research.
This means that patients who’ve been diagnosed with cancer shouldn’t always assume that either the diagnosis or their options are precisely what they’ve been told. Sometimes a cancer has progressed more than the diagnostic tests suggest; sometimes it’s progressed less. And sometimes the diagnosis is completely off-base.
Clayton S. Lau, M.D., associate clinical professor and an expert in testicular cancer surgery at City of Hope, explains the difference that second opinions can make in getting a proper cancer diagnosis and care. » Continue Reading
Eleven years ago, lymphoma patient Christine Pechera began the long road toward a cancer-free life.
She had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and told by doctors elsewhere that her lifespan likely would be measured in months, not years. Refusing to give up, she came to City of Hope for a second opinion. There, she received her first encouraging words. She began treatment soon after watching the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, an event that she’d watched as a child and that she thought she might never see again.
After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous stem cell transplant – a procedure using her own stem cells – Pechera returned to health, only to relapse in 2005.
She can still find the YouTube video pleading for help in the search for a matching bone marrow donor. Because she was Filipino, matches were hard to come by; her search was even featured on “Nightline,” highlighting the need for more diversity among donors. Finally, a man in Hong Kong – who never saw the video or “Nightline” – was identified as a match.
His stem cells – and the expertise of City of Hope’s lymphoma experts – saved Pechera’s life. The journey that began with a poor prognosis at another institution brought her back to the Rose Parade on January 1 of this year. This time, the former lymphoma patient rode on City of Hope’s float, paying tribute to the fact that the dream of being cancer-free can be within reach, even in some of the toughest cases. » Continue Reading