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Patient and Physician Partner Against a Cruel Cancer

Diagnosed with inoperable small cell lung cancer, 72-year-old Martha was stunned by the words of her physician at Memorial Cancer Institute.

"While I was shocked by the diagnosis of lung cancer, I was even more shocked when he said we could beat it!" says Martha. "Even at my age, he was prepared to treat me. He said it would be hard, but if I did as he said we could beat it together. He believed in me and I believed in him and Memorial."

The Lung Cancer Program at Memorial Cancer Institute brings together the medical specialties of thoracic surgery, medical and radiation oncology, pulmonary, pathology and radiology. A multidisciplinary team reviews each newly diagnosed case and works together to evaluate and determine treatment options. Clinical research options include the newest approaches to early- and late-stage disease presentation.

Immediately following her diagnosis, Martha began an aggressive treatment plan that included high-dose chemotherapy every three weeks with twice daily radiation therapy.

"At Memorial Cancer Institute, we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating our patients," says Srinath Sundararaman, MD, MS, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology. "The key to this is communication across the disciplines – between the radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, surgeon, nutritionist and chemotherapy nurses – the entire team works together."

In Martha's case, her medical team followed the standard of care for her type of lung cancer, which included preventive treatment to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to her brain. This approach is dependent upon the patient's condition and willingness to undergo further radiation therapy.

"In Martha's case, she received radiation to the brain electively when there was no cancer evident," said Dr. Sundararaman. "With small cell lung cancer, the risk of the cancer spreading to the brain approaches 80 percent over time without radiation treatment."

"The doctors took every precaution including radiation to the brain to be sure we got it all," says Martha. "We took an aggressive approach and while it was draining both physically and emotionally, we did it!"


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