When Dr. Shannon Penland, Medical Oncologist at the South Central Cancer Center in Laurel, first moved to the community, she had the vision for the development of an Appearance Center, a special boutique where cancer patients can go to meet all of their personal care needs. A center that provides wigs, scarves, makeup, bras, journals, and gift items featuring the breast cancer awareness logo.
"I had the vision for the boutique when I came to Laurel, and I am pleased that the center is now open and available to cancer patients in this region," Dr. Penland said. "It is hard for patients to search for items after receiving a diagnosis, so having the items all under one roof inside our cancer center makes it very convenient."
The center is run by cancer center personnel and volunteers who have had a personal experience with cancer. "They give of their time to others, because they have personally experienced the journey," Dr. Penland said.
Nurse Navigator Program Keeps Patients Informed
The South Central Cancer Center in Laurel also has a Nurse Navigation program in place, which serves as the hub of cancer treatment services in Laurel. "Dealing with all the new emotions and decisions surrounding your diagnosis can be overwhelming. To help you through this process, our nurse navigator, Kathy Eason, RN, is available to help explain your options or just to listen. She is the liaison between the patient, their doctors, and their family," Dr. Penland said.
Dr. Penland continued by saying that Kathy knows that your health and peace of mind is an important part of your treatment. She is a patient educator and advocate, care coordinator, system navigator, and has the goal of improving your cancer care experience. Research has shown that having a nurse navigator during treatment allows patients to better focus on healing — and they feel empowered knowing that an advocate is on their side.
Comprehensive Cancer Care Program Includes a Team of Physicians
Cancer treatment involves a team of physicians who work together to treat cancer in Laurel. "I provide chemotherapy and hematology services at the South Central Cancer Center. Surgeons Kevin Ivey, MD, Chad Saul, MD, Stacy Smithers, MD, and Tanweer Majid, MD, provide general surgery; Cameron Pimperl, MD, provides radiation oncology; and Hoss Nasajpour, MD, provides plastic surgery. We also interact with primary care physicians and other specialists who provide care to the patient... Having open lines of communication regarding the care of a cancer patient is key in the process. We all work together to provide the best care possible for our patients," Dr. Penland said.
Understanding the Role of Each Specialist
There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. The health care professionals in Laurel work together to provide diagnosis, surgery, and treatment for cancer patients who have these conditions as well as other types of cancer.
Shannon Penland, Hematologist/Medical Oncologist at the South Central Cancer Center in Laurel, uses chemotherapy to treat cancer patients. “Medical oncology is the branch of medicine that uses chemotherapy to treat cancer. Over the last decade, we have made major advances in targeted cancer care: better drugs and fewer toxicities.” As a hematologist, Dr. Penland treats a range of blood disorders, including types of anemia and chronic leukemia.
“It is never easy to receive the diagnosis of cancer. Patients who have cancer need to have the support of family and friends. They need convenient access to health care services such as chemotherapy, radiation oncology, advanced diagnostic services, general surgery, and cosmetic and plastic surgery. We offer all of those services here in Laurel,” Dr. Penland said.
“I also have a strong relationship with several large academic institutions that specialize in clinical trials,” she said, “When it comes to treating cancer, you need all of the resources available to provide the best care possible for the patient.
Kevin Ivey, MD, a general surgeon at Laurel Surgery Clinic, said, “It usually begins with a biopsy, establishing a diagnosis. Sometimes that involves a minimally invasive procedure that may be done in our office the same day that we meet the patient. Sometimes a larger operation at the hospital is required.”
“Once we’ve established the diagnosis, we begin to assemble and coordinate a team of physicians. It is important to recognize that it’s a team effort and that every cancer patient is going to be treated with a team approach,” Dr. Ivey said.
Dr. Penland said that cancer treatment could affect your ability to function and your overall energy level. That is why it is difficult for cancer patients to commute. She added, “We are fortunate to have well-trained health care professionals in Laurel who work together to provide the best care possible for our cancer patients. Patients can remain close to home and close to family and friends.” Eighty-five percent of all cancer treatment provided nationally occurs in the community where the patient lives.
Dr. Ivey said, “These are people who are friends, acquaintances in the community, members of our church or other organizations where we belong, as well as people that we encounter in our daily lives. So, we’re not only technically committed to restoring their health, we’re personally and emotionally invested in making that happen and we, as a group, at Laurel Surgery Clinic, have been doing this since the 1970s.”
Dr. Penland and Dr. Ivey stated that another very important component is radiology and access to good interventional radiologists. “We are able to get all of the staging work done here in Laurel, including PET scanning. Our interventionalists provide port placement, biopsies, and other needed procedures. The Radiology Department offers advanced diagnostic services including digital mammography, breast MRI, and pelvic MRI services. We have just about every modality used at larger academic institutions, and because we offer what I call “boutique medicine” (a more personal approach to cancer treatment in a smaller medical community), I can pick up the phone and call one of the interventional radiologists at South Central and ask them to work someone in. Nine out of 10 times our radiologists find a way to accommodate the patient,” she said.
Radiation therapy is another important part of the process. Laurel Radiation Oncologist Dr. Cameron Pimperl, MD, said, “Radiation is part of a triad of treatment options including chemotherapy, and surgical therapy provided to patients. Radiation therapy is a means by which we can project energy into a patient and produce a biological effect that we utilize to help treat cancer. There are many different types of radiation therapy available here. There are types that utilize beams that are projected into the patient, there are radioactive sources that can be placed inside the patient, and there are many different forms in both of those areas.”
The goal is to eradicate cancer cells over a course of radiation therapy treatment, which is designed to allow good cells to recover some from day to day while the cancer cells are being eradicated. The good cells survive the therapy and can recover back to healthy tissue over time. “Fortunately, cancer cells are not able to recover from the treatment the way that good cells are,” Dr. Pimperl said.
After treatment, many times a cosmetic or plastic surgeon is needed. Hoss Nasajpour, MD, a cosmetic and plastic surgeon in Laurel, said, “Reconstruction, when it comes to cancer therapy, involves making the body feel whole again... letting them know that there is hope, and that they can go on with the rest of their lives feeling whole again.”
“Taking care of patients with cancer involves multiple levels of care. It’s not just about treating the physical cancer. Cancer is, unfortunately, a very emotionally distressing disease and having to add the stresses of going to many different cities, and different centers, adds to that emotional distress. We acknowledge that. Part of the care that we provide is taking care of patients with a hometown feel, but at the same time giving them university-level care without them having to travel all over the state in order to get their appropriate treatments,” Dr. Nasajpour said. South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel opened a new Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Center in late 2012. Staying up-to-date with current medical technology has always been a priority at South Central.
Dr. Penland closed by saying, “It is nice to be part of a well-integrated cancer program which includes advanced medical technology and health care providers who are committed to providing the best care possible for our patients.”
To find out more about the comprehensive cancer care program in Laurel, call 601-518-7054 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. South Central Cancer Center is conveniently located inside of Jefferson Medical Associates at 1203 Jefferson Street in Laurel.
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