With lung cancer at bay, she’s cruising Florida coast on her Harley

Toni Lindgren on the motorcycle she and her husband bought for her after her chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer. This winter, she plans to ride it along the eastern coast of Florida.

Toni Lindgren on the motorcycle she and her husband bought for her after her chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer. This winter, she is riding it along the eastern coast of Florida. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

As a retired police officer, Toni Lindgren knows how to deal with problems. So, when a physician at Fort Drum said, “I think it’s cancer,” Lindgren said, “I’m going to Upstate. I want the doctors who do cancer all day, every day.”

Last March, Lindgren, 58, of Carthage saw her primary care physician because she was concerned that her stuffy nose and occasionally bloody cough might be symptoms of an infection that her elderly mother could catch.

“Just to be on the safe side, let’s do a chest X-ray” said Lindgren’s primary care doctor. She and her husband receive care though Fort Drum because of his military service.

That evening, the doctor called her at home. He made sure she wasn’t alone. Her husband, Dale, was with her. “There’s a large mass on the lower lobe of your right lung,” the doctor told them. “Don’t wait until Monday. Get a CT scan at Carthage Hospital now.”

The CT scan confirmed a tumor in her lung, and Lindgren’s doctor gave her a referral to the Upstate Cancer Center.

Birendra Sah, MD

At Upstate, Birendra Sah, MD, inserted a scope through her mouth so he could view her lungs, trachea and surrounding area with the scope’s camera. That procedure, called a bronchoscopy, showed lung squamous cell carcinoma in a lymph node. It was followed by a PET scan, which illuminated the cancerous tumor and a number of concerning spots near her trachea.

“I lit up like a Christmas tree,” described Lindgren, shaking her head.

Since the PET scan made it appear that cancer had spread from the lung to the lymph nodes, the initial plan was to treat Lindgren with chemotherapy and radiation.

Lindgren’s reaction was, “This thing’s growing every day. I want surgery to get it out!”

Jason Wallen, MD

The multidisciplinary thoracic oncology team at Upstate met to discuss Lindgren’s case and, with her involvement, decided that a second biopsy, called a mediastinoscopy, was warranted to further examine the middle of her chest, between the lungs.

The results were encouraging. Surgeons Jason Wallen, MD, and Robert Dunton, MD, biopsied multiple lymph nodes, and none  were cancerous. Most of the areas illuminated by the PET scan were “false positives,” meaning noncancerous. Now, surgery was an option.

Robert Dunton, MD

On May 3, Lindgren had minimally invasive surgery to remove the lower lobe of her right lung. She was released from the hospital four days later, on her husband’s 60th birthday.

The final pathology report showed that only two lymph nodes were cancerous.

Oncologist Stephen Graziano, MD, recommended 12 weeks of chemotherapy. Between June and August, Lindgren and her husband rose at 5 a.m. to drive from Carthage to Syracuse for her treatments.

Lindgren tolerated the chemotherapy well. She had just a couple of bouts of nausea and never lost her hair. However, a few weeks into treatment, Lindgren faced another blow: While she was being treated at Upstate, her mother died in another hospital in another city.

Stephen Graziano, MD

“I couldn’t visit Mom because my resistance was low because of the chemo,” explained Lindgren. “But we were able to video chat. Mom told me she’d decided to stop her treatment for a lung condition. Now, she and my dad, who died six years ago, are angels in heaven making sure I’m OK.”

One tough day at the hospital, Lindgren’s husband mentioned that they ought to look at a white Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was for sale in Utica. For Lindgren, it was love at first sight. She had long dreamed of riding a Harley on Highway A1A in Florida with her husband.

With surgery and chemotherapy completed, Lindgren and her husband were ready to snowbird. Lindgren’s CT scan in September and chest X-ray in November were clear, paving the way for their extended trip. Shortly after her birthday on Nov. 14, the couple left Carthage for St. Augustine, Fla. She will see doctors there, and then she has an appointment with Graziano in April at Upstate.

The couple is grateful.

“When I got the news of lung cancer last spring,” admits Lindgren, “I didn’t think I’d live to see my birthday.”

Now, she’s in remission. She’s enjoying warm weather and long motorcycle rides with her husband.

Posted in cancer, entertainment, Expert Advice, health care, illness, lung/pulmonary, medical imaging/radiology, patient story, Smoking Cessation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Installing a port and a feeding tube at the same time makes sense for some patients – and it’s safe, study shows

Upstate pathologist Rana Naous, MD, examines a spot in which a fine needle aspiration could be used to test a tumor in the neck for cancer. See the secondary story below for more on this procedure. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Upstate pathologist Rana Naous, MD, examines a spot in which a fine needle aspiration could be used to test a tumor in the neck for cancer. See the second story below for more on this procedure. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

BY AMBER SMITH

Most patients with head and neck cancer require the installation of a port, and many will also need a feeding tube.

Katsuhiro Kobayashi, MD

Katsuhiro Kobayashi, MD

“For the patient’s convenience, placing both devices at the same time would be ideal,” says Katsuhiro Kobayashi, MD, an assistant professor of radiology at Upstate who was part of a study that examined whether doing both procedures at once was as safe as doing them several days apart.

Interventional radiologists commonly install these devices. Ports help reduce the number of times patients are stuck with needles for blood samples or medication injections. Feeding tubes are necessary for patients who can’t take in enough food by mouth to stay healthy.

Kobayashi and Philip Skummer, a second-year medical student at Upstate, reviewed the medical records and imaging studies for 76 men and women treated for head and neck cancer at Upstate between January 2012 and June 2014.

Philip Skummer

Philip Skummer

The researchers wanted to know if infection rates were different for the 30 who had a port and a feeding tube installed in two separate sessions than for the 46 who had both devices installed in the same session.

None of the patients developed infections with their ports in the first 30 days after they were placed. About 11 percent of patients from the single session group and 7 percent from the two-session group developed minor infections with their feeding tubes within the first 30 days of its placement.

Infections are an unfortunate risk of the procedure. The researchers concluded that having both devices installed in the same session did not significantly increase that risk.

Fine needle aspiration: Quick way to diagnose suspicious lump

A biopsy done through fine needle aspiration is reviewed while the patient waits. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

A biopsy done through fine needle aspiration is reviewed while the patient waits. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Fine needle aspiration is a quick, highly accurate biopsy for  diagnosing lumps in the breast or thyroid areas or lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit. The minimally invasive procedure is most often used to test for cancer.

After numbing the skin with a spray, a staffer from Upstate’s cytopathology laboratory pierces the lump with a needle – like the ones used for flu shots – then applies some suction and moves the needle inside the lump to dislodge some cells. Less than a minute later, the suction is released, the needle is withdrawn, and the cells are put on a slide and evaluated.

The patient usually waits a few minutes to see whether the cell sample is sufficient or needs to be repeated.

A pathology report to the patient’s health care provider is usually ready within 24 hours. The test might be conducted in a clinic or at a hospital bedside, sometimes guided by medical imaging. Complications are infrequent, and discomfort is usually minimal.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast with Kamal Khurana, MD, medical director of cytopathology at Upstate, about fine needle aspiration as a less invasive option to surgical biopsy. 

Posted in cancer, ear, nose and throat/otolaryngology, health care, HealthLink on Air, illness, medical imaging/radiology, medical student, pathology, research, surgery, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Recipe: Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

Acorn Squash and Apple Soup offers a soothing dish designed to be easily eaten by those with mouth sores or sensitive stomachs due to cancer treatment.

Acorn Squash and Apple Soup offers a soothing dish designed to be easily eaten by those with mouth sores or sensitive stomachs due to cancer treatment.

For a soothing, cool-weather meal that’s easy on the mouth and the tummy, turn to squash, apples and onion. When combined into this satisfying soup, you’ll have a good source of potassium and fiber. Prep time takes about 20 minutes. Soup’s ready for serving within an hour.

Ingredients

1 medium acorn of butternut squash (1½ to 2 pounds)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 medium yellow onion, sliced (1/2 cup)

2 medium tart cooking apples, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

½ teaspoon dried basil leaves

2 cans (14 ounces each) chicken broth

½ cup half-and-half

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white or black pepper

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half; remove seeds and fibers. Place cut sides up in 13-by-9-inch pan. Pour ¼ inch water into pan. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes or until tender. Cool. Remove pulp from rind and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in heavy 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Stir in apples, thyme and basil. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove 1 cup apples with slotted spoon; set aside. Place 1/3 each of the remaining apple mixture and squash in blender or food processor. Cover, blend on medium speed about 1 minute or until smooth, then pour into bowl. Continue to blend in small batches until all soup is pureed.
  4. Return blended mixture and 1 cup reserved apples to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook over low heat until thoroughly heated.

Nutritional information

This recipe makes six servings. Each contains:

190 calories

7 grams fat

20 milligrams cholesterol

670 milligrams sodium

690 milligrams potassium

26 grams carbohydrates

6 grams dietary fiber

5 grams protein

Source: “Betty Crocker Living With Cancer Cookbook”

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in recipe | Tagged

A moonshot: Pediatric cancer chief tells how effort could help young patients

Melanie Comito, MD, Upstate's chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Melanie Comito, MD, Upstate’s chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

BY JIM HOWE

Overall, one could say the U.S. is doing well in battling childhood cancers.

Since the 1960s, pediatric cancer deaths have fallen steadily. Today’s average five-year survival rate is 84 percent, compared to about 50 percent in 1975.

But challenges remain, says Melanie Comito, MD, Upstate’s chief of pediatric hematology and oncology.

She points out that progress has been slow, or nonexistent, in treating some childhood cancers in the last two decades, resulting in lost lives and devastated families.

In addition, of the roughly 80 percent of childhood cancer patients who are alive after five years, about half end up with chronic medical conditions. About a fifth die prematurely.

Most of the money for cancer research goes to adult cancers, Comito says, because adults make up about 99 percent of all cancer cases. Of the 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, about 16,000 are younger than 20.

While far more adults get cancer, children pay a bigger cost in death or chronic medical conditions, Comito told an audience at an Upstate cancer symposium in September. The average loss of life from cancer is 71 years for children, vs. 15 years for adults, since adults tend to be diagnosed at age 67, and children at age 6.

Put another way, 11 U.S. children die of cancer every day, or about 4,000 a year, making it the biggest cause of childhood death from disease.

Comito expresses hope as she describes how the  “Cancer Moonshot” – the ambitious national effort underway to defeat the disease – could help young cancer patients:

  • repurposing drugs now used only for adults.
  • developing drugs targeted to children’s cancers and aiming to lessen later effects.
  • adapting immunotherapy – using the patient’s immune system — for children’s cancers.
  • studying the microenvironment, or healthy tissue around tumors, to better target the disease.
  • increasing research funding.
  • continuing and improving the multidisciplinary approach to treatment, to pool the knowledge of researchers and health care providers.

What if a cure meant not only getting rid of cancer but that no one could ever tell you had been treated for it? Comito muses. Or if children could be screened for cancer, then given a biologic agent of some sort, so  no one ever needed treatment?

“We not only want to cure more children, but we want a cure that will last into adulthood and make them productive adults,” she says.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast with Comito about pediatric brain and spine cancers.

Posted in adolescents, cancer, death/dying, drugs/medications/pharmacy, health care, HealthLink on Air, illness, research, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics | Tagged , , , ,

Assessing that ‘ounce of prevention’

Peter Greenwald, MD. (PHOTO BY RICHARD WHELSKY)

“The way you live your life affects your chances of getting cancer,” Upstate graduate Peter Greenwald, MD, emphasized at the 12th annual Upstate Cancer Symposium in September.

Greenwald, the associate director of prevention at the National Cancer Institute, gave a rundown of behaviors that put people at risk. At the top of the list: smoking, whether tobacco, electronic cigarettes or marijuana.

He spoke of vaccines, of how aspirin lowers the risk of colorectal cancers, and of unanswered questions about the threats of environmental cancers.

He also addressed diets, and the impossibility of accurately tracking everything an individual eats and drinks over a lifetime in order to study its impact on cancer formation. Greenwald made the point that one who wishes to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle later in life needs to set about living a healthy life while still young.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, diet/nutrition, drugs/medications/pharmacy, prevention/preventive medicine | Tagged , , ,

Patients love these Upstate doctors

This gallery contains 9 photos.

    Every year the Upstate Foundation celebrates National Doctor’s Day in March by collecting tributes from grateful patients and families – and hand-delivering messages of gratitude to the physicians. Among the Upstate physicians receiving the highest number of tributes … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged ,

Leaders focus on Cancer Center’s next phase

Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD, in his lab. He is one of Upstate's researchers who seeks to benefit cancer patients with advancements in diagnostic and treatment options (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD, in his lab. He is one of Upstate’s researchers who seeks to benefit cancer patients with advancements in diagnostic and treatment options (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Upstate Cancer Center officials are improving outcomes for cancer patients by integrating the medical care, research, education and outreach programs that are already in place.

“We have outstanding research faculty, outstanding clinicians and some of the best cancer-fighting technology around, and spirited community outreach efforts. These all work to win the war against cancer for our patients,” says Jeffrey Bogart, MD, interim director of the cancer center. “When we align all that Upstate does in the field of cancer care, we intensify our institutional might in battling this disease.”

The institution has a long history of providing collaborative multidisciplinary care with integrated cancer clinics dating back to the 1990s. Bogart says the depth and breadth of subspecialty expertise at Upstate is unmatched in the region and unique in the number of fellowship-trained doctors specializing in cancer. The new structure of the cancer center facilitates a team-based approach organized around specific tumor sites, including breast cancer, lung cancer, genitourinary malignancies, head and neck cancer, neurologic cancers and cancers of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder, among others. Upstate also houses the only children’s cancer treatment facility in the region.

In his role as interim director, Bogart, who also serves as chair of radiation oncology, oversees all cancer care and cancer-related research at Upstate.

He says a stronger alignment between the cancer center and the academic institution will “strengthen our cancer care, accelerate scientific discovery, bolster our academic programs and extend our community outreach and education efforts far beyond our campus.” Bogart adds that this new structure puts the cancer center in the best position to grow and respond to the changing market and health care reform dynamics. It will also set in motion Upstate’s long-term strategy of earning a National Cancer Institute designation.

NCI-designated centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources and the depth and breadth of their research in basic, clinical and population science.

“This is an important designation that reflects on an institution’s integrated approach to cancer care,” Bogart says.

Assisting Bogart is the newly created Cancer Center Leadership Committee, which includes broad representation from campus, including department chairs, nursing, research and hospital leadership. Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, professor and chair of the urology department, is vice chair. Other key appointments include Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD, associate professor of urology and biochemistry and molecular biology, for basic and translational research; Ajeet Gajra, MD, associate professor of medicine, for clinical affairs; Stephen Graziano, MD, professor of medicine, for clinical research; and Leslie Kohman, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Surgery, for community outreach.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, community, health care, medical education, research | Tagged ,

Breast cancer survivor preaches screenings

BY JIM HOWE

Janet Bacon’s breast cancer is rare in one way, but typical in another: It shows the importance of early detection.

Bacon, 59, of Syracuse, had skipped her annual mammogram in 2014 – she had let a lot of things slide that year after losing her best friend.

Janet Bacon. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

Janet Bacon. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

In 2015, a resident health advocate – someone trained by Upstate to help neighbors find medical information and promote health – called Bacon to ask whether she had gotten that annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer, as part of the She Matters program (see
“How to obtain a mammogram,” below).

“So I went for it,” Bacon says of the mammogram she got in March 2015. “I didn’t think anything of it. They called me back for an ultrasound. About a week later, they said I needed a biopsy. I didn’t think anything of that, either,” she says, noting she had been called back for a biopsy years ago that amounted to nothing.

This time was different.

“It was cancer. I was devastated. I couldn’t speak at first,” she says.

She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, found very early, at stage zero. This would normally be treated with a lumpectomy – surgical removal of the cancerous tissue, not the whole breast – followed by whole-breast radiation to prevent recurrence.

But Bacon’s case was unusual – so much so that her doctors plan to publish a case study of it. She has scleroderma, a complicated, chronic disease of the connective tissue that has also affected her kidneys.

Radiation can cause scarring in people with scleroderma, so that would tend to rule out the usual treatment, says Bacon’s radiation oncologist at Upstate, Anna Shapiro, MD.

Radiation oncologist Anna Shapiro, MD.

Radiation oncologist Anna Shapiro, MD.

“It would be a shame for her to have a mastectomy,” says Shapiro, but an operation to remove the entire breast was a likely alternative to avoid the radiation.

The multidisciplinary team at the Upstate Cancer Center decided, however, that a lumpectomy could be done if followed by a type of radiation called brachytherapy, which targets an area small enough to minimize the scarring.

Bacon’s brachytherapy involved inserting tiny radioactive pieces through a tube into a balloon implanted at the lumpectomy site, twice daily for a week.

Brachytherapy is successful for a select group of patients, such as Bacon, who are generally at low risk for recurrence, Shapiro says.

Bacon feels fortunate not only for the care she received, but for her family, which includes a brother and six sisters living down South, as well as nieces and nephews, who came to lend support.

“They ran straight here to me the day I had surgery” in May 2015, she recalls. After the operation, her surgeon, Upstate’s Scott Albert, MD, told her relatives in the waiting room that the operation was a success.

Surgeon Scott Albert, MD

“He did a wonderful job,” Bacon says. Radiation treatment followed a month later, and a mammogram in October 2015 showed no trace of cancer.

Bacon has wasted no time in recommending regular mammograms to her female relatives, noting the family history of breast cancer includes not just herself but a niece who died of the disease.

Bacon says she is doing well, goes to routine check-ups every four months and will take anti-cancer medication for five years.

“I think breast cancer is my passion now. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.” She says, “the No. 1 thing is getting a mammogram.” She adds she is consistent in reminding her neighbors to get a mammogram.

She is now a resident health advocate herself and  works to keep her 300 or so neighbors in the Toomey Abbott Towers on Almond Street informed about their health, particularly through She Matters programs.

Shapiro echoes the need for mammograms and outreach programs like She Matters.

”The reason we’re so successful at improving success in curing breast cancer is because we’re able to diagnose it so early. The success story of breast cancer really lies in early detection. Typically a mammogram picks up something small,” Shapiro says.

Albert notes that Bacon’s type of cancer is usually only picked up through a mammogram.

Janet Bacon (left) and Martha Chavis-Bonner (seated), both of whom are resident health advocates, sign people up for mammograms and colorectal cancer screening at the Mary Nelson Back to School Barbecue, held in August in Syracuse. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

Janet Bacon (left) and Martha Chavis-Bonner (seated), both of whom are resident health advocates, sign people up for mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings at the Mary Nelson Back to School Barbecue, held in August in Syracuse. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

How to obtain a mammogram

The New York State Cancer Services Program offers breast, cervical and prostate cancer screening for residents who meet income eligibility and age requirements. Call 866-442-2262 for details.

In addition, may public health departments (check with the one in the county where you live) provide access to low-cost or no-cost mammography and other cancer screenings for people without health insurance coverage.

The Upstate Cancer Center’s “She Matters” program makes mammography available to underserved women living in Syracuse Housing Authority locations in downtown Syracuse. The program includes education and awareness about the disease, as well as general wellness.

A recent grant of $25,000 – the latest in an ongoing effort from the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Central New York affiliate — helps expand this outreach to include Toomey Abbott Towers, Pioneer Homes and Almus Olver Towers.

She Matters was founded in 2014 and receives support from the housing authority and several community and Upstate organizations and departments.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast about the She Matters program.

 

 

 

 

Posted in cancer, community, health care, illness, medical imaging/radiology, patient story, prevention/preventive medicine, public health, surgery, volunteers, women's health/gynecology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lung cancer vigil celebrates survivors, memorializes the departed

Candles lit dozens of luminaries outside of the Upstate Cancer Center for Thursday evening's Lung Cancer Vigil.

Candles lit dozens of luminaries outside of the Upstate Cancer Center for Thursday evening’s Lung Cancer Vigil.

Caregivers and patients gathered at the Upstate Cancer Center Thursday, on the evening of the Great American Smokeout, for a candlelight vigil calling attention to lung cancer.

“Even though everybody’s heard of it, a lot of people don’t realize that lung cancer kills more women and men than the next four cancers combined,” said Leslie Kohman, MD, who has been caring for lung cancer patients at Upstate for more than three decades.

Luminaries decorated the front of the Upstate Cancer Center during the vigil.

Luminaries decorated the front of the Upstate Cancer Center during the vigil.

She described the tobacco industry as “a gigantic worldwide industry trying to create victims” as she pointed out that 1.5 million people died because of lung cancer last year. That makes lung cancer the biggest cancer killer in the world. “That’s a burden we just don’t want to have going forward.”

Kohman, a surgeon, is the director of outreach at the cancer center. She told the audience that her patients over the years exhibited desperation, fear and anxiety, but also hope and inspiration. Then, family members and survivors spoke at the ceremony.

Darlene Barbato told of the eerie similarities between her diagnosis and that of her daughter, Amy.

Cathy Bonacci spoke about her sister, who died at age 43: “Optimism and courage were the things that defined who she was. Not the disease.”

And Glenn Wells, whose lung cancer was discovered when he underwent lung cancer screening, shared how he does not feel like a survivor because surgery treated his cancer. “I didn’t go through the chemotherapy and the radiation, and the toll that that takes on your family and those around you.”

Indu Gupta, MD, is health commissioner for Onondaga County,

Indu Gupta, MD, is health commissioner for Onondaga County,

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Indu Gupta, MD, told the audience that prevention remains key. She explained that 40 percent of American adults smoked cigarettes in 1965, the year cigarettes were required to add a health precaution to their labels. Today, that percentage has dropped to about 17 percent nationally, and about 20 percent in Onondaga County.

Gupta encouraged those in attendance to help create a social norm that is smoke-free and to support smoke-free policies. Even though treatments available at the Upstate Cancer Center have improved survival, Gupta said, “our focus should be to try to prevent these preventable diseases.”

Rev. Terry Culbertson, director of Spiritual Care at Upstate, sang during the vigil and shared a poem: "Faith is the bird that feels the light and still sings when the dawn is dark."

Rev. Terry Culbertson, director of Spiritual Care at Upstate, sang during the vigil and shared a poem: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and still sings when the dawn is dark.”

Posted in addiction, cancer, community, lung/pulmonary

What to expect at your first visit to Upstate Cancer Center

The reception area in the lobby of the Upstate Cancer Center. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Upstate Cancer Center staff members begin preparing for a patient’s first visit soon after the appointment is scheduled. They request radiology and laboratory results and other information from your referring physician, so cancer specialists can review those reports before you arrive.

For your first consultation, please allow at least 1½ hours.

You will meet with a cancer doctor and other members of your treatment team to discuss your options and determine the recommended course of treatment. Patients may be referred or request a second opinion.

How to prepare:

  • Research the type of cancer with which you have been diagnosed before your appointment, because being informed can help you make choices about your treatment options. The Upstate Cancer Center website includes resources in the “Cancer Types” tab.
  • Learn about your physician by typing his or her last name into the “Find a Doctor” section of the main Upstate website.
  • Write down any questions and bring them with you.
  • Invite a family member or friend to accompany you to help listen and take notes during your appointment.
  • Let the appointment scheduling staff know if you need translation services or interpretation for the hearing impaired.

What to bring with you:

  • A completed medical history form (download a blank copy here);
  • A list of the medications you currently take, including over-the-counter medications;
  • Health insurance card;
  • Employer’s name, address and phone number, if you are covered under your employer’s insurance plan;
  • Advance directives, or “living will,” if you have one;
  • Your referring physician’s name, address and phone number;
  • Parking ticket for validation.

How to make an appointment:

Call the Upstate Cancer Center at 315-464-4673 to schedule a consultation.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, community, health care, illness | Tagged , , , ,