Guam cancer patients to get radiation therapy - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam cancer patients to get radiation therapy

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - There's great news for cancer patients who have either had to go off-island for cancer treatment or who face the possibility of surgery.  Calling it a quantum leap in medical care on the island, adding, "It's really going to change many, many things," Dr. Sam Friedman noted how hundreds of cancer patients will soon be able to receive radiation therapy.  

For the last five years, the oncologist has been treating cancer with chemotherapy but with the radiation component coming online next month.  He said, "We can do all sorts of modern treatments now with chemo radiation that is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation given at the same time, which can supplant surgery in certain situations."

This only means good news for cancer patients on the island, some who have had to go off-island for cancer treatment and others who have had to suffer.  "A lot of patients weren't getting treated, because they couldn't afford to go off or they were on MIP and MIP didn't have the money and MIP said they weren't curable so they can suffer in pain and they don't warrant going off because they're going to die anyway," said Dr. Friedman.

Next month the Guam Cancer Center will introduce the radiation component of cancer treatment.  Radiation oncologist Dr. Theresa Pagliuca explained, saying, "It's entirely possible for many patients that they can avoid having a disfiguring or disabling surgical procedure and have chemotherapy and radiation therapy instead." 

She added, "We can dramatically change the cancer experience for a lot of people in this part of the world. We can keep them functioning keep them healthy and happy and productive."

This will have a significant impact for those residents who have cancer in their mouth or throat where surgical procedures could render them speechless.  Dr. Pagliuca stresses that radiation therapy can also provide dramatic changes in treatment for women with breast cancer.  She says instead of having a mastectomy, wherein the entire breast is removed, radiation can, in most cases, allowing a woman to keep her breast.  "If we can avoid that for most patients and inmost cases we can, it would be doing a lot of patients a lot of good," she said.

Dr. Friedman adds that efforts are also underway to establish a highly specialized tumor board to review special cases.  "Cases such as I mentioned where there is a question of treatment or what is the best treatment can be presented weekly where all the specialists, the radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, oncologists can all talk about the case and discuss the best way to treat the patient," he added.

The Guam Cancer Center is currently taking referrals and will start seeing patients in the next two weeks.  An open house will be held on April 10 at their facility at the Guam Medical Plaza in Tamuning.

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