A cancer diagnosis can not only be a life-changing event, but a time of great uncertainty, stress and overwhelming emotion. At Lovelace Cancer Care, our integrated program and approach is designed to fight cancer with the latest technology, skilled physicians and belief that you are more than your diagnosis. In fact, our patients have a team of physicians who meet weekly to discuss treatment plans for patients on an individual basis. In the words of one of our patients, "Whereas I walked in as a one-man army, I walked out with a whole team behind me."
Lovelace tumor boards, as these teams of experts are called, bring together radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, surgeons and specialists, including urology, ENT, colorectal, gynecologic oncology and cardiovascular. The team meets together in one room every week to discuss treatment options and plans for new patients, as well as to discuss previous cases in retrospect.
Dr. Lisa Berle of Lovelace Medical Center Radiation Oncology is one of the participating physicians. "A team approach is taken for all our patients to make sure we are giving the standard of care and patients are getting proper treatment."
Every patient's case is listed on one of three Lovelace tumor boards case list – general, breast care and SBRT (stereotactic body radiation therapy). Most cases are presented before the boards to determine the best course of treatment. In many cases, patients will not receive their treatment plan or begin treatment until the tumor board has reviewed their case.
"Our patients are very impressed and happy to know their cases are discussed," Dr. Berle explains of her breast care patients. "They are cared for and more is being done for them than they know."
Depending on a patient's diagnosis and treatment plan, they may receive therapy delivered through Lovelace Cancer Care Program's state-of-the-art technology, including New Mexico's first and only TomoHD, Varian 21iX linear accelerator, Gamma Knife Perfexion, or Phillips Big Bore 4-D CT.
TomoTherapy is a revolutionary, image-guided radiation treatment delivery system that best targets radiation to treat tumors while sparing normal tissues. With TomoTherapy, an infinite number of pencil beams from any angle and size can target a tumor, from pinpoint to large-beam radiation.
The 21iX Linear Accelerator can also target and treat tumors without damaging normal tissue, while delivering radiation within two minutes. This technology lets us to turn the treatment on and off to allow for the patient's normal breathing pattern, while only delivering treatment when the tumor is in the correct place. This spares normal tissue from radiation, which translates to fewer side effects for patients.
The Gamma Knife Perfexion is the leading technology to fight tumors of the brain, including those previously thought to be inoperable. No other technology can meet the accuracy of this highly advanced stereotactic radiosurgery. Most patients are able to cut treatment times and go home after the treatment within a few hours.
The Phillips Big Bore 4-D CT scanner helps guide the treatment plan for patients with breast and lung cancers who need to hold their hands above the head for imaging. The largest computed tomography (CT) scanner in New Mexico, the Phillips 4-D CT offers an 85 cm bore with a weight limit of 600 pounds. Additionally, the 4-D technology allows for more accurate imaging for tumors that are moving with the patient's normal breathing, tracking the location at any point in time.
Not only do the tumor boards discuss the use of this technology in current cases, they are able to measure progress after treatment by reviewing and discussing the cases of patients who have already received treatment. Follow-up scans of patients six months to one year after treatment provide valuable insight to the specialists on the tumor boards.
Tumor boards facilitate communication by having the team of physicians and specialists who may be directly involved with treating a particular patient in the same room. Additionally, they allow for experts in their medical specialties to participate in the treatment planning process, providing the patients with a multidisciplinary approach to their treatment. For a patient just diagnosed with cancer, a tumor board may not be on the list of questions or concerns they have. At Lovelace, our tumor boards help give patients the added peace of mind their diagnosis is going to be thoroughly reviewed and discussed by a team of experts to ensure they receive the best care available.
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