Cancer surgeon Yuman Fong: ‘Many advanced cancers are curable’

June 10, 2014 | by

Less invasive treatments. More cures.

Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery at City of Hope, has adopted this as more than a mantra. He’s made it his life’s work. Penning the leading textbooks and manuals in liver surgery, delving into gene therapy to find innovative new approaches to use viruses to attack cancer, and exploring robotic means to improve surgeries and make them less invasive, Fong doesn’t limit himself to a single medical discipline in his quest to fight cancer.

Even in more advanced cases, up to 50 to 60 percent of liver cancer cases could be curable, says Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery.

Even in more advanced cases, up to 50 to 60 percent of liver cancer cases could be curable, says Yuman Fong, chair of City of Hope's Department of Surgery.

“Many advanced cancers are curable,” he says. “Seeing an expert makes a difference.”

Fong uses the example of liver cancer, saying that often patients who have multiple tumors don’t recognize effective treatments are available for even advanced and complex cancers. About half of patients who have had colorectal cancer will develop a tumor in their liver. Of these, Fong estimates as many to 50 percent to 60 percent of these cases are curable – if patients can get to surgeons with the expertise to handle their disease.

He has been a leader in performing liver cancer surgeries that primarily use a needle to ablate the tumor – often allowing patients to go home on the same day.

While currently no broad screening regimen exists for liver cancer, doctors know two groups who are at highest risk, he says: colorectal cancer survivors and hepatitis C patients – especially those who have liver cirrhosis.

Fong’s point is that where you seek treatment for cancer care matters. That point is backed up by recent City of Hope research finding that being treated at a comprehensive cancer center does, in fact, improve survival. The study, recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, also found that ethnicity, insurance type and socioeconomic status could all be barriers to getting treatment at a comprehensive cancer center.

The first step is for people to recognize that cancer is often more curable than they think, says Fong, and to seek the experts in curing it.

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