University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jim Got his Cancer Treatment Close to Home at Penn Medicine Valley Forge

When Jim, an avid cyclist, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, he was referred to Penn Medicine for his care.

After his surgery, Jim received radiation therapy at Penn Medicine Valley Forge.

“The treatments were relatively smooth sailing, and the staff was great,” says Jim. “I am nearly bald, but I was told that I might suffer some hair loss, and my only question was ‘How would I know?’”

Now, nearly two years after his journey with cancer started, Jim remains cancer-free and is still cycling like a champ.

“I can’t say enough about the Abramson Cancer Center,” says Jim. “My surgeon Dr. O’Malley, my oncologist, Dr. Chip Staddon at Penn Medicine at Radnor, and Dr. Geoffrey Geiger at both the Valley Forge and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine always put me as a person in front of me as a patient. Plus the staff at all locations have been phenomenal.”

Jim adds, “I want my story to give others hope.”

About Penn Radiation Oncology at Valley Forge

The Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine Valley Forge brings the expertise and prominence of one of the nation's leading cancer centers to Chester County – including the most advanced treatment, groundbreaking research and the compassionate care of leading experts.

Penn's Abramson Cancer Center at Valley Forge offers patients:
  • World-class cancer experts right in your community
  • 15 consultative exam rooms
  • Chemotherapy and innovative medical oncology treatments
  • State-of-the-art True Beam™ linear accelerator for radiation oncology
  • Consultative surgical services in some specialties
  • On-site laboratory and pharmacy services
  • Access to the latest clinical trials and research, as well as cutting edge treatments like proton therapy – the most advanced and precise form of radiation therapy in the world.

Penn Radiation Oncologists in Valley Forge 

At Penn Medicine, we don’t just treat cancer, we treat your cancer. And, if you need radiation treatment, rest assured. Whichever of our eight locations you choose, whether it’s downtown or close to home, you get the same Penn doctors. Same Penn evaluation team. All part of Penn Medicine.

We work with you to understand who you are, how you live and even help you find locations close to where you live to create the most personalized treatment plan that considers every radiation option available today. Some, like proton therapy, are found only at Penn.

If you need radiation treatment, rest assured. Whichever of our eight locations you choose, whether it’s downtown or close to home, you get the same Penn doctors. Same Penn evaluation team. All part of Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Locations

If Valley Forge is not convenient to you, you can still receive radiation therapy at one of our other radiation oncology locations listed below:
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chester County Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chestnut Hill
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Doylestown
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Kennett Square
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Radnor

Learn about our radiation oncology services, make an appointment, or ask about a second opinion for you or a family member at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Penn Radiation Oncology in Center City, Philadelphia

"When I came to the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) with stage 2 synovial sarcoma, I needed hope and I needed help. Dr. Kristy Weber treated my cancer in a way no one else could. She saved my leg and my life. Thanks to the sarcoma program at the ACC, I am a three-month cancer survivor.” 
- Megan Dychala, sarcoma cancer survivor

At 23, Megan Dychala was a former college soccer player who thought her nagging knee pain was a result of old injuries. She was young, active, and enjoying all that life had to offer her. But, in October, 2013 she got a phone call that would change her life.

Megan’s ongoing knee pain was in fact a tumor behind her knee. One day she was healthy and the next she was faced with a rare and aggressive cancer. Although statistics were against Megan, she knew she wouldn't let anything happen without a fight.

Luckily Megan found Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Kristy Weber, MD. While other hospitals said that amputation was her only chance for survival, Dr. Weber knew she could do better – treating Megan’s cancer, but also ensuring a good quality of life after treatment.

"My medical team worked with me to develop an aggressive treatment plan that included five and a half weeks of daily radiation followed by an intense surgery. Dr. Stephen Hahn was my rockstar of a radiation oncologist and took care of me every step of the way," says Megan.

At Penn Medicine, we don’t just treat cancer, we treat your cancer. And, if you need radiation treatment, rest assured. Whichever of our eight locations you choose, whether it’s downtown or close to home, you get the same Penn doctors. Same Penn evaluation team. All part of Penn Medicine.

About Penn Radiation Oncology at Pennsylvania Hospital

Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Complete evaluation, treatment and follow-up care for patients with cancer whose disease can be effectively treated with radiation, as well as patients with benign (non-cancerous) diseases
  • Offers advanced treatment options including Gamma Knife®, CyberKnife®, Brachytherapy, and evaluation for Proton Therapy
  • Home to one of the only bloodless medicine and surgery programs on the East Coast
  • Expert care from physicians of every subspecialty to provide patients with personalized treatment plans

 

About Penn Radiation Oncology at The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Philadelphia
The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
  • Expert care from physicians of every subspecialty to provide patients with personalized treatment plans
  • Home to Roberts Proton Therapy Center, the most advanced form of radiation therapy
  • Provides patients effective communication, mutual understanding and a solid foundation for personal support

 

 

Other Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Locations

If Center City is not convenient to you, you can still receive radiation therapy at one of our other radiation oncology locations listed below:
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chestnut Hill
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chester County Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Kennett Square
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Radnor
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Valley Forge
Learn about our radiation oncology services, make an appointment, or ask about a second opinion for you or a family member at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tattoos: The Last Step in My Journey to Wholeness

In this guest post from her own personal blog, Jane reflects on her choice to get nipple and areola tattoos as part of breast reconstruction following a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a straight arrow. Growing up, I kept my room neat, did my homework and chose as my friends similarly minded. I did what I was supposed to do, completed what I started, wore little makeup, didn't get my ears pierced until middle school, and never, ever considered getting a tattoo.

Fast-forward four decades.

Not much about my personality has changed, but I do have two tattoos, and when they faded to the point that they were nearly invisible, I chose to have them redone. Don’t bother looking for a decorative rosebud on my shoulder, an alluring bird behind my ear or an inspiring phrase in Latin inked down my spine, however. You won’t find any such tattoos on my skin. In fact, it’s not likely that you’ll ever see my tattoos at all.

That’s because I chose to get nipple and areola tattoos as the final step in the reconstruction of my breasts after I had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy several years ago.

Like Angelina Jolie, I’d tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation, and this genetic defect – which is 10 times more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews than in the general population – significantly increased my lifetime risk of developing breast, ovarian and several other types of cancer.

I always knew I’d get the tattoos – so much so that I never even considered not getting them, despite my straight-arrow personality. They were a part of the plan from the beginning, relieving me of the need to research and ponder all the options; list the pros and cons of each; and think, rethink and over-think my decision a thousand times. I’d already done all of that in making the choice to have the prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in the first place.

All told, I had three separate surgeries over the course of 18 months.

Individually and collectively, they took a tremendous toll on my body and on me, and the scars – both physical and emotional – remain. Although they continue to heal a bit each day, I’m not sure they’ll ever fade completely.

15 months after the last surgery, my body finally was ready for the tattooing. Once the tattoos healed, I could hardly believe the incredible power they had to transform my transplanted tissue mounds into breasts. For the first time since my mastectomy, my “faux” breasts looked like real breasts, and my body looked complete. More than transforming my breasts or completing my body, my tattoos restored the rest of me – my spirit, my soul, my deepest self – to wholeness.

Although I will never again be the person I was before my BRCA test, I’m still a straight arrow – with tattoos. Every day, they remind me of the strength and courage it took for me to change my life’s course to ensure that my genetics would not dictate my destiny. My tattoos remind me, too, that the path I’m on is the right one for me, that I’m lucky to be where I am, and that the same strength and courage that helped guide me on that journey to wholeness continue to guide me today.

Jane E. Herman, is a BRCA2 mutation carrier and volunteers as an Outreach Coordinator for FORCE: Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered in New York City and blogs regularly about her BRCA journey and other slices of her life at JanetheWriter Writes… 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Basser Center's BRCAbeat Reflects on Making a Difference

As the summer begins to quiet down, the Basser Research Center for BRCA's e-newsletter takes a look back at the progress made since its establishment in 2012. This edition highlights the 2012-2014 Honor Roll, the Basser Center Progress Report and installation of the Homologous Hope sculpture.



The Center was created through the visionary philanthropy of Mindy and Jon Gray and is leading the revolution in defeating BRCA-related cancers. The collective support of many generous individuals has ensured that the vital resources are in place to help our researchers accelerate bench-to-bedside implementation of critical discoveries, bringing hope to patients and their families.
  • 2012-2014 Honor Roll - Basser Research Center for BRCA: View the Basser Center Honor Roll to see the many individuals who are helping to lead the revolution in defeating BRCA-related cancers.
  • Basser Center Progress Report: View the Basser Center Progress Report to read about advances in research, education and outreach for the many individuals living with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.
  • Homologous Hope Video: Watch a time-lapse video installation of the Homologous Hope sculpture, the large-scale piece designed especially for the Basser Center by internationally renowned artist Mara G. Haseltine.
Join our many generous donors by making a gift to the Basser Research Center for BRCA. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by BRCA-related cancers.


Subscribe to the BRCAbeat for quarterly e-newsletter updates covering BRCA news, research, philanthropy and scientific breakthroughs. 

Susan's Undoing - A Fringe Arts Performance

“Oh, I can tell you the exact moment when everything changed; the instant when the chapter called ‘My Life’ ended and the chapter called ‘My Life with Cancer’ began.

My surgeon wasn’t even there that day. His nurse was standing in for him. I was sitting on the examination table and the moment she walked into the office she said, ‘Let’s go over the results first.’

That was it. That’s when I knew. What was there to ‘go over’ if everything was okay?”


That is the monologue in Susan’s Undoing in which Susan recounts her realization that her life will never be the same. Susan Chase was a 45-year old dancer and actress when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her loss of physical abilities and self-image was uniquely deep and wounding because so much of her prior identity was tied to her physical abilities. Two years after completing her treatment, a fragile Chase still had not recovered, emotionally or physically. She discovered that the hardest part of fighting cancer was after she had been pronounced “cured.”

“I battled cancer for over a year,” she says. “It was challenging but clear-cut. I had a discernable enemy and a potent army of doctors, nurses and technicians.”

“The harder part for me came after the battle,” she says. “I was abandoned by my army, and despite what my doctors said, I didn’t feel ‘cured.’ I still felt weak, vulnerable and terrified.

“A drama and dance therapist at the time, I recognized the symptoms of emotional crisis. For 10 years I had worked in a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. Using my art form as a therapeutic tool, I had drawn many young patients back from the brink of suicide. Yet, I was powerless to free myself from my own demons.

“In desperation, I began journaling the experience. I had no particular goal in mind -- I’d just write things on odd scraps of paper and then stuff them in a large envelope.”

Three years later, Chase opened that envelope and the scribbled entries became the backbone of her play, Susan’s Undoing. Since premiering the play in 2007, Chase has performed it throughout Pennsylvania and New England. In September, she will share the Philadelphia premier of Susan’s Undoing with audiences at the 2014 Fringe Festival.

It is a story to which many can relate. Anyone who has overcome illness, injury or trauma will recognize Susan’s struggles in Susan’s Undoing.

However, Chase has chosen to tell her story in boldly unconventional and strikingly daring ways. She spends much of the 70-minute play climbing, dangling, balancing and falling from a looming industrial ladder.

“Oh, the ladder was part of the piece from day one,” Chase says. “The ladder represents ‘the tree of life’ for me. We are, all of us, struggling to climb that tree. For me, the climb became so much more difficult when I got cancer. I was barely hanging on – maybe even fell off a few times. But I wanted the audience to see a glimpse of who I was before the cancer. I weave my body in and out of the ladder, I hang upside down from it – the tree of life was my delight in those days. I joyfully explored the intricacies of her branches.”

Though Chase resolutely avoids a pat or clich├ęd “happy” ending, Susan’s Undoing is undeniably uplifting and inspiring. The play bears witness to the healing power of creativity – to the power of the arts to provide consolation and inspiration to those in physical, emotional or spiritual crisis. Implicit in Susan’s Undoing is the value of embracing and telling your story.

“The truth is, my ‘healing’ didn’t begin until I began to tell my story -- through writing and performing Susan’s Undoing. And I had to tell ALL of it: the sadness, the anger, the sense of betrayal. My goal now is to give others the confidence to tell their stories.”

“But that doesn’t just happen, Chase notes. And maybe that’s the most important message of the play – to just give yourself the time and space to heal – to face your feelings. And you’re not on anyone else’s schedule when you do this. Only you know how much time and space you need. But you have to do it. Everyone will tell you to ‘be positive.’ But don’t let that pressure you. You need to face ALL your feelings before you can heal.”

Susan's Undoing Performances

Location
Studio 1831
1831 Brandywine Street

Days and Times
Fridays: September 5 and 12 at pm ET
Saturdays: September 6 and 13 at 6 pm ET
Sundays: September 7 and 14 at 3 pm ET
Wednesday: September 10 at 12 noon (BAG LUNCH MATINEE)

Location
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
2111 Sansom Street

Days and Times
Thursday: September 18 at 7 pm ET
Friday: September 19 at 7 pm ET
Saturday: September 20 at 6 pm ET
Sunday: September 21 at 3 pm ET

Monday, August 18, 2014

Penn Radiation Oncology at Doylestown Hospital


When Carole Gross was diagnosed with breast cancer, she knew having radiation therapy close to her home was essential. She chose Penn Radiation Oncology, located on the campus of Doylestown Hospital's campus, for its convenience and its reputation.

It was there she met William Rate, MD, PhD, radiation oncologist.

“Dr. Rate was amazing,” she says. “He asked me about myself – he put me as a person before my cancer diagnosis. He just made me feel I was important – that I was comfortable with the whole process. And, he presented information to me in a very understanding and reassuring way.”

When a scan showed something on Carole’s hip, Dr. Rate personally consulted with his colleagues and asked Carole if he could make appointments for her so she could focus on her treatments.

“Within a half hour of Dr. Rate’s phone call, all of my imaging studies and reports were sent to another specialist I could see for my hip,” says Carole. “Everything was seamless, but Dr. Rate made me so comfortable with the process.”

Carole’s treatments spanned her children’s summer break, and she was able to bring her kids with her to her treatments. She jokes that her kids felt comfortable, because they knew their mom was being treated so well.

“Penn Radiation Oncology allowed me to have the same level of treatment as the Abramson Cancer Center, within my own community,” says Carole. “It was a wonderful opportunity, and I wouldn’t have wanted my cancer treatment anywhere else.”
Dr. Rate Doylestown Radiation Oncology Penn
Dr. Rate, radiation oncologist

About Penn Radiation Oncology at Doylestown Hospital

Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology at Doylestown, located on the campus of Doylestown Hospital, offers a full range of radiation oncology services and on-site access to Penn Neurosurgery, including:
  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
  • Conformal Radiation Therapy (CRT)
  • Treatment planning for radiation therapy
  • Second opinion and consultation services
  • Supportive care and symptom management services

Other Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Locations:

If our Doylestown location is not convenient for you, please consider these other Penn Radiation Oncology locations:
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chestnut Hill
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chester County Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Kennett Square
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Radnor
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Valley Forge

Learn about our radiation oncology services, make an appointment, or ask about a second opinion for you or a family member at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology – 8 Philadelphia Area Locations


At Penn Medicine, we don’t just treat cancer, we treat your cancer.

If you need radiation treatment, rest assured—you'll get the same great Penn doctors, the same Penn evaluation team and the same outstanding care, at every one of our eight Philadelphia area locations. And each location has access to the latest in radiation technology, advanced treatment options and clinical trials. Some treatment options, like proton therapy, are only found here.

Our teams work with you to create the most personalized treatment plan, based on where you live, how you live and most importantly, the type of treatment you need.

This belief, this commitment, that your treatment should be as unique as you are, has made the Abramson Cancer Center the region's #1 cancer program.


Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology Locations

  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chester County Hospital
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Chestnut Hill
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Doylestown
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Kennett Square
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Pennsylvania Hospital (Center City)
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (University City)
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Radnor
  • Penn Radiation Oncology Valley Forge

Learn about our radiation oncology services, make an appointment, or ask about a second opinion for you or a family member at Penn Medicine Radiation Oncology. 
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