NIAGARA, Ontario: Patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer will not have to travel to Hamilton for initial consultations with specialists with the return of a prostate cancer clinic to St. Catharines General Site.
The Niagara Health System’s oncology program is becoming more integrated with Hamilton’s Juravinski Cancer Centre to better co-ordinate patient care and reduce wait times. Since late July, Hamilton radiation oncologist Dr. Ian Dayes and four other specialists see prostate cancer patients on a rotating basis in St. Catharines.
“Until now, prostate cancer patients would travel to Hamilton for consultation with a radiation oncologist before their surgery or radiation appointments were booked,” says Carol Potvin, Director of the NHS Oncology Program. “Now, patients can have that consultation in St. Catharines. A prostate cancer clinic was offered several years ago in Niagara, but the specialist moved away and couldn’t be replaced.”
Each year, about 450 Niagara men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The clinic expects to see up to 180 patients each year. If there are more, the schedule will change as needed.
“This clinic is improving patients’ access to consultation with radiation specialists,” says Dr. Janice Giesbrecht, NHS Oncology Medical Director. “Not only can this increase utilization of radiation services to improve patient outcomes, but it will also provide Hamilton’s radiation specialists the opportunity to interact more with Niagara’s medical oncologists and urologists. This ultimately means better care for our patients.”
The new prostate cancer clinic, held every other Tuesday, is located on the third floor of the recently expanded outpatient oncology unit. Other hospital programs were relocated from the Moore wing to make way for the oncology program. “Our oncology program has increased about 30 per cent in the last five years, so we were fortunate there was room to grow on the same floor,” explains Potvin.
“Last year, there were 31,400 patient visits to outpatient oncology for chemotherapy, consultation with specialists, and follow-up care,” Potvin says. “The expansion also allows us to add more chemotherapy treatment stations, which are in constant demand. Along with new clinic space and exam rooms, we now have a meeting room in the expanded wing with videoconferencing, so our clinicians can take part in multidisciplinary case conferences (i.e. specialists from different disciplines such as pathology, diagnostic imaging, radiation, surgery, medicine discuss patient cases) with Hamilton and beyond.”
At the prostate cancer clinic, Dr. Dayes helps patients determine their course of treatment, based on best practice for the patient’s age and health condition. Patients are referred to a radiation oncologist by their family physician or urologist.
“When patients come to the clinic, we will review their test results,” Dr. Dayes explains. “Some men may have elevated PSA levels which will need to be monitored. Others will have had a biopsy taken showing the presence of cancer. As you move into more and more advanced cancers, the options change to surgery and/or radiation. We will talk about the pros and cons of radiation.”
“Right now, the average radiation treatment plan for prostate cancer is five days a week for seven or more weeks,” Dr. Hayes says. “Each treatment takes 10 to 15 minutes. We’re hoping to participate in a clinical trial in the near future for new targeted methods of providing radiation, which would cut the number of treatments down to one-quarter or one-third.” Sometimes chemotherapy or drug therapy is also used. Most prostate surgery and chemotherapy is carried out in Niagara, with patients travelling to Hamilton for radiation therapy until 2013, when the Walker Family Cancer Centre will open.
The oncology program is also pleased with the appointment of a sixth medical oncologist in Niagara, Dr. Radhika Yelamanchili, who started seeing patients in May. Medical oncologists provide consultation, diagnosis and treatment plans for a wide range of cancers requiring chemotherapy, targeted therapies and biologic therapies.
“The addition of the prostate cancer clinic and more specialists will help us to reduce wait times for our patients,” Potvin says. “We are finalizing plans now to open a lung diagnostic assessment program this fall, which will help suspected lung cancer patients navigate the health system to reduce their wait time for diagnosis and treatment.”
“We look forward to working with Dr. Dayes and other new colleagues as part of an integrated cancer program,” Dr. Giesbrecht says. “We’re very pleased to see this addition and others coming on stream in Niagara’s oncology program.”
For more information, contact:
905-378-4647, ext. 43879