By Alexander Germanis
Enrico Fermi, nuclear physicist and one of the fathers of the atomic age, once said, “Ignorance is never better than knowledge.” Perhaps nowhere is this better represented than in the medical profession. It is knowledge that first serves doctors in their efforts to care for their patients.
It has also been said that “knowing is half the battle,” and when the battle is one against cancer — a disease as varied as the people who suffer from it — the fight for both patient and doctor begins with learning as much as there is to know.
Fortunately, for those in the Bloomington-Normal area who suffer from cancer, the Community Cancer Center (CCC) is on the cutting edge of cancer knowledge and treatment. Established in 1999 through a joint venture between BroMenn Healthcare and OSF Healthcare, the CCC has achieved the recognition of providing an accredited cancer program for the surrounding communities. The American College of Surgeons requires cancer centers to meet 34 standards and guidelines and seven commendations in order for their cancer treatment program to become accredited.
“The American College of Surgeons is the group who sets the standard for cancer care,” explains Dr. Pramern Sriratana, a medical oncologist at Mid-Illinois Hematology and Oncology Associates who practices primarily at the CCC. “They meet regularly and update the guidelines, which are clinical and management based.”
The CCC not only meets those standards but exceeds them. It has been ranked, “in the top ten percent in the country in respect to quality care,” the doctor adds.
According to Dr. Sriratana, the Cancer Center’s implementation of three specific elements is what makes it a great asset to the medical community. “The first element,” he says, “is the cancer conference, where cancer specialists — medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists — review a certain number of cases as an educational program.”
The second element is the use of a cancer registry. “The purpose of the registry is to keep track of all the incidences of cancer in our community and surrounding areas,” states Dr. Sriratana. By using the cancer registry, the cancer program is able to know the prevalence of the different types of cancer, types of treatments used, and the staging of different diseases. “The cancer registry,” explains Dr. Sriratana, “allows for physicians and the cancer program to see how cancer is being treated in our communities, whether it is with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments together and in what particular sequence, to determine the best way to help in our patients’ fight.” The cancer registry also looks at survival data in our area and shares the reports with other centers around the state and even at the national level, in order to determine what will produce the best results when treating cancer.
“The third element,” Dr. Sriratana concludes, “is the Cancer Committee, which consists of different groups of doctors — primary care, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, all the specialists in oncology — coming together to review what we do, review the outcomes, and report it to the American College of Surgeons. The American Cancer Society is involved, too.”
However, it is not simply other cancer centers and boards of surgeons for whom these data are made available. “So,” the doctor says, “if someone wants to know, ‘I have melanoma; what do I do?’ they can call our cancer center and ask for resources of information and get links to look at the status of this cancer in this community and patient outcomes.”
Making this information available to all who seek it and updating it regularly are especially important when battling such an individualized disease. After all, “not all cancers are the same,” Dr. Sriratana says. “You can say ‘breast cancer’ but there are lots of ways of treating it based on lots of factors: age, different cell type, different receptors, different genetic makeup and this is how we finally formulate the proper planning of treatment. There’s not one lung cancer, there are many of them.” Every patient is handled as a unique case, so treatment is highly individualized.
As diverse as cancer can be, the Community Cancer Center is well equipped to handle nearly every case, and this is one of the reasons that they have remained an accredited cancer program. The facility contains medical oncology, radiation oncology, the cancer center support staff, social workers, dietitians, a breast health navigator, a community educator, professional educator, and a chaplain.
“We do diagnostic testing, too, not only treatment,” Dr. Sriratana assures. “We have a PET scanner, CAT scanner, and a lab. It’s all under one roof.”
Before the war on a patient’s cancer can be fought and, hopefully, won, the battle begins with knowledge. “We want to disseminate information, especially as there are a lot of changes in cancer treatment,” Dr. Sriratana reiterates. “We need to watch out for what’s new in terms of diagnostics and treatment in order to be true patient advocates and to provide the highest standard of care.”
For more information on any type of cancer, you may contact Mid-Illinois Hematology & Oncology Associates, Ltd. 309-452-9701 or online at www.mihoaonline.org. They are an independent QOPI-Certified practice located inside the Community Cancer Center at 407 E. Vernon Avenue in Normal. To learn more about the Community Cancer Center, go to their website www.cancercenter.org.
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