Hearing the words “you have cancer’” is challenging for anyone. Your world feels as if it’s just been turned upside down and you’re full of questions. To help, we are here to walk you through all of the stages of being a cancer patient, from diagnosis to survivorship. Our hope is to help alleviate confusion and anxiety you may have about the journey you are about to take as a patient at Siteman Cancer Center.
Often cancer is first detected through screenings, self- exams or annual check-ups with a general practitioner or specialists, such as a dermatologist. In order to be diagnosed with cancer, a biopsy must be done on the tissue in question. The biopsy may be a simple outpatient procedure or a more invasive one requiring surgery, depending on the bodily area being examined. When a biopsy is performed at Siteman, the pathologist examining the tissue will be one who specializes in the area from which the biopsy is taken. For example, if the patient has a tumor in his or her breast, the pathologist performing the biopsy would be one who specializes in breast health.
Seeing a specialist
If the biopsy results come back positive, showing evidence of disease in the tissue, a diagnosis will be determined. It is at this point that you will begin searching for a specialist to begin treatment. What sets Siteman apart from other cancer centers is the level of expertise of our caregivers every step of the way and the state of the art care provided to you. When you make an appointment at Siteman, you will be scheduled for the next available with a specialist in the type of cancer that you have been diagnosed. All Siteman specialists are Washington University Physicians. Many of the physicians at our institutions are performing research in these specific disease sites. Prior to your appointment, your physician will review all of your medical records. Every case is different. When we begin to attack the disease, we want to know how we’re going to approach it. A multidisciplinary approach will be taken. Combining the opinions of expert doctors in pulmonary medicine, radiology, interventional radiology, surgery, and medical and radiation oncology is important to our treatment approach. Our team also includes psychologists and social workers to help with the emotional and financial challenges facing people with a cancer diagnosis. In addition, a nurse coordinator schedules appointments, gathers medical records, and keeps everyone – especially patients – up-to-date on treatment progress.
Siteman offers a number of treatment programs. Through Washington University School of Medicine, our physicians have access to research and clinical trials that others do not. It is because of this that we have more treatment options and plans to offer. Treatment options vary from patient to patient depending on cancer type, cancer stage and other factors. If you require treatment, your care may consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these. Patients with blood disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma may undergo bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. Other treatments, procedures or services may be recommended as part of your care, such as a clinical trial. Once treatment begins, your physician will monitor your condition throughout and make adjustments as seen fit. To best accommodate our patients with convenient, quality care close to home, many of our physicians will see you at one of our satellite facilities within the St. Louis metropolitan area, where you may also be able to receive treatment.
When you are diagnosed with cancer you become a survivor, and you will learn how to live with cancer as you go through and after you complete your treatment. Our Survivorship Program focuses on the physical, psychosocial, social and spiritual journey of our patients. We’re here to help with issues related to follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers and quality of life. Your physician will review a survivorship care plan with you after you complete therapy. This plan will include brief details of your treatment, including recommended followup and suggestions for cancer prevention to remain healthy.