The last thing you want after you or a loved one gets a cancer diagnosis is to wait to discuss treatment options, and then travel far from home to receive that treatment in a large, potentially impersonal facility.
The Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport provides the latest state-of-the-art treatment usually only found at university hospitals, allowing patients to receive timely, outstanding, personalized treatment and care without traveling far from family, friends, and other support systems.
According to Cancer Center Director Julie Nampel, the Center treated nearly 400 new patients in 2018, administering more than 4,000 chemotherapy and radiation treatments. "We provide individualized care with board-certified, experienced physicians and staff through a team-focused approach," Nampel says. Each patient's therapy is determined and planned by a team of highly skilled, caring specialists. We also provide hematology services for patients in need of that care."
Director Julie Nampel (third from the left) meets with (left to right) oncology medical social worker Kelly Schleich and registered nurses Shannon Roberts and Katy Lartz in the chemotherapy room of the Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center at FHN Memorial Hospital.
Made possible by generous gifts contributed by FHN Foundation friends, an upgrade was recently completed for the Cancer Center's external beam radiation machine, or linear accelerator. This state-of-the-art technology performs Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) along with Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy and Volumetric Arc Therapy that can deliver the dose to the entire tumor in a 360-degree rotation, typically in less than two minutes. "This upgrade will allow for much greater precision in targeting tumors, thus minimizing the damage to adjacent tissues", Nampel says. "It will also extend the life of the equipment for an additional six years".
FHN's board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist, Arshad Shaikh, MD, has provided leading-edge chemotherapy to FHN patents for more than 10 years, and has recently seen promising results from immunotherapy treatments. A revolutionary approach for treating certain types of cancer, immunotherapy boosts the body's natural defenses to fight cancer, allowing one's immune system to do the heavy lifting in battling the cancer cells.
"Immunotherapy has been one of the cornerstone treatments of the future of cancer and we at the FHN Cancer Center have been on the front line in the usage of immunotherapy," Dr. Shaikh says. "There are many tumor types that can now be considered for treatment and the indications are only expected to broaden. I have seen a remarkable benefit across various cancers with immunotherapy, particularly melanoma."
Dr. Shaikh says that while utilizing the latest in research and technology in treatment is imperative, a holistic personal and spiritual approach can't be overlooked. "Establishing a heart-to- heart connection is personally the most important criteria to me," he says. "While I strongly believe in modern medicine and carefully selecting treatment strategies for patients that would both reduce side effects while enhancing the chance for cure, I am a person of faith and have seen the benefit of this application when approaching patient care."
FHN's alliance with Paramount Oncology Group (POG), an innovative cancer care organization based in Dubuque, Iowa, allows us to provide state-of-the-art stereotactic radiosurgery that precisely targets radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy, which can help preserve healthy surrounding tissue, greatly improving patient outcomes.
Bobby Koneru, MD, board-certified radiation oncologist, founder and president of POG, provides treatment to Cancer Center patients four days a week, giving local patients the very latest in research-driven care.
While Dr. Koneru is a national speaker in the high-tech world of radiation treatment, he doesn't lose sight of his patient-centered approach. "Every patient is different. Everyone is unique. I try to understand what the patient's needs are and try to make a collaborative decision between standard recommendations and what the unique needs are for the patient and their family," explains Dr. Koneru.
"I've worked in large academic centers and several smaller clinics, and what really stands out about this facility is the quality of the staff, the personal touch that they add, and how much they genuinely care about their patients. They really take their time to get to know them and their needs." "Even though this is a smaller center, we offer all of the latest technologies that any major academic center would offer in the radiation world," Dr. Koneru shares.