By MARLA PISCIOTTA
For The State Journal
One year ago Valley Health–Winchester Medical Center initiated a surgical oncology program with the arrival of Dr. Patrick Wagner.
Wagner specifically joined Valley Health to establish a surgical oncology practice. The practice encompasses all aspects of general surgical oncology, with an emphasis on malignancies of the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon and rectum.
The oncology program at the hospital, which also serves Hampshire County in West Virginia, recently expanded with the introduction of stereo tactic radiosurgery in collaboration with the University of Virginia.
For more than 30 years, the cancer program has been caring for cancer patients served by many specialty-trained medical providers and the most current treatments available.
In the past year, Valley Health has cared for more than 1,200 patients with various types of cancer with the recent addition of subspecialty oncology physicians, additional patient support services and plans for a new state-of-the-art facility to consolidate all the cancer services in one location. "Comprehensive cancer programs consist of three legs: medical oncology, which is chemotherapy, radiation oncology and surgical treatments," said Suanne Gersdorf, vice president, corporate service lines and executive director of oncology for Valley Health. "Valley Health continues to improve our excellent care in all these areas."
Gersdorf said VH has recruited surgeons who specialize in cancers of the abdomen, liver, pancreas and lungs.
Previously these cancer patients who needed surgery had to leave the area. Now they can be treated locally.
"We are seeking to build a new comprehensive cancer center. For the first time, all cancer services will be available to patients in one patient-friendly and family friendly location," Gersdorf said.
Valley Health cancer patients have access to clinical trials, which are research protocols typically performed in university hospital settings.
Physicians and nurses have the expertise to carry out these trials so patients don't need to drive out of the area. This has been made possible through the leadership of the physicians of Shenandoah Oncology in Winchester.
Since many cancers have genetic factors, it's important to also have access to genetic testing and counseling with highly trained specialists. Certain factors in the genetic makeup of individuals make them more likely to develop a certain type of cancer, as with the BRACA gene found in Angelina Jolie.
Winchester Medical Center now provides genetic counseling upon physician referral in cooperation with Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. The breast surgical program is under the direction of Dr. Anita Minghini.
Minghini led the work to obtain the national accreditation Program for breast centers throughout 2010 and achieved it in the winter of 2012. Wagner said a multidisciplinary cancer committee oversees Winchester Medical Center's cancer program.
"The group meets once a week to discuss cases, which are sometimes unusual. Some patients need more than one provider depending on the various types of cancer," Wagner said.
Wagner said certain types of cancer such as colon and breast cancer are common and are pretty clear cut.
"When a patient has cancer in the esophagus or pancreas, we have to determine what that individual would be able to tolerate," Wagner said.
Wagner said the cancer program at Valley Health — Winchester Medical Center is in constant progression. "Each quarter it has grown."
Until this past year, Wagner said some cancer patients had to be referred to other hospitals.
Now, with the services provided by Winchester Medical Center, that is not the case.