Doctors at the Washington Cancer Institute (WCI) take a patient-first philosophy to cancer care, a personalized treatment approach that has helped the institute earn a reputation as the top cancer center in the D.C. area. Since its founding in 1992, Washington Cancer Institute has been a regional leader in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and a model for comprehensive, multidisciplinary cancer centers across the nation.
Patients with asbestos-related cancers can seek a wide range of cutting-edge therapies at the Washington Cancer Institute. Mesothelioma patients can receive treatment from Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, a world-acclaimed expert in the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma. Asbestos lung cancer patients can visit the institute’s Lung Cancer Center, where they can attend weekly meetings with a cancer care team handpicked to meet their individual needs.
In addition to its specialty departments in medical, surgical and radiation oncology, the Washington Cancer Institute offers 11 site-specific cancer centers and a comprehensive pain center. It is part of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, one of the 50 largest and most experienced hospitals in the United States.
The Washington Cancer Institute was one of the first cancer programs in the nation to be recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s acclaimed Quality Oncology Practice Initiative Certification Program. Each year the cancer center diagnoses more than 1,400 new cases of cancer and serves more than 70,000 outpatients.
The Washington Cancer Institute takes a multidisciplinary, patient-centered approach to treatment. Patients with pleural, peritoneal or other forms of mesothelioma can consult with a team of expert doctors to plan an effective course of treatment. Therapy typically involves some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and supportive care.
In 1993, the cancer center launched the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies program to better serve patients with mesothelioma and other difficult cancers of the abdomen and pelvis. While these cancers have historically been associated with poor outcomes, WCI patients can benefit from the expertise of Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, a surgical oncologist and director of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies program.
Boasting more than 30 years of experience researching and treating rare abdominal cancers like mesothelioma, many consider Sugarbaker to be the world’s foremost expert in the treatment of peritoneal surface malignancies. He pioneered numerous specialty treatments, including the Sugarbaker procedure, which combines cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
The Washington Cancer Institute and three other cancer centers worldwide have treated a combined 300 peritoneal mesothelioma patients using the Sugarbaker procedure. While the disease has long been associated with a survival rate of one year or less, patients treated with Sugarbaker’s technique at these centers experienced a median survival of five years or longer.
Doctors at the Washington Cancer Institute have created a systematic guide to help determine the best candidates for treatment at the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies program. The first step is presurgical screening, during which a team of doctors review the patient’s imaging scans and other test results before a face-to-face meeting.
Next, the patient meets with a surgical oncologist at the cancer center’s Oncology Specialty Center (OSC). In the initial evaluation that follows, a team of doctors explain the cancer diagnosis and imaging scan results before describing possible approaches to treatment. The meeting also includes a physical examination.
Before cancer surgery, patients must undergo a surgical evaluation called a diagnostic workup. This step includes patient education, further testing (which may include an EKG heart test, blood tests and imaging scans) and a consultation with an enterostomal therapist. After surgery, patients can expect to spend about 21 days at the hospital recovering.
Patients diagnosed with lung cancer can seek treatment at the Washington Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Center. In a single appointment, patients meet all members of their cancer care team in one room. Depending on the patient’s unique needs, the team of specialists may include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, lung pathologists, nutritionists or several other support staff members.
Because the three primary types of treatment for lung cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, coordination among the doctors administering these therapies is crucial. At the Lung Cancer Center, patients can establish relationships with all of their care providers in one setting. Doctors can inform patients about all aspects of the treatment plan and answer any questions in a single weekly meeting. Patients are encouraged to bring a friend or loved one to the Lung Cancer Center for support.
The Washington Cancer Institute has a strong commitment to research that not only advances the quality of cancer treatment and supportive care as a whole, but also brings cutting-edge treatments to the cancer center’s patients.
The success of current treatments depends on the results of past clinical trials. Doctors at the Washington Cancer Institute encourage patients to participate in these human studies, which aim to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new drugs, drug combinations or treatment approaches.
Although there is no guarantee that new treatments from clinical trials will be better than current therapies, patients may gain access to innovative therapies that are not available elsewhere.
Disclaimer: Washington (D.C.) Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center has no professional affiliation with Asbestos.com.
Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.
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