Cancer care at the Tommy and Shirley Strickland Cancer Center is truly extraordinary. Our cancer center brings the latest in chemotherapy and radiation technology to South Georgia, along with board certified oncologists who are known in the medical community for work in the fight against cancer. Also, area residents can get the best possible treatments close to home.
Every aspect of the Tommy and Shirley Strickland Cancer Center was designed with the patient in mind – from large, private, chemotherapy suites to an abundance of patient-only parking just steps away from the center’s main entrance.
What You Can Expect: When patients first come to the center, they typically receive an initial consultation with a physician who will begin putting together a customized treatment plan that may include radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments or therapies.
Patient-Centered Approach: Since cancer can affect many aspects of a patient’s overall well-being, we strive to treat the entire patient, not just the cancer, using a Patient-Centered Approach.
That means other specialists and professionals may be brought in to assist with your specific needs, whether it’s a nutritionist to help design a dietary plan to keep you strong during your treatment, or our nurse navigator who can help you and your family navigate the system.
We may also recommend a support group, or some other treatment or therapy designed to meet your unique needs. It also means that every aspect of our center was designed with your needs and comfort in mind from private rooms to a centralized work station designed for greater efficiency and workflow.
Your Cancer Care Team: Every patient that comes to the cancer center is paired with a team of specialists. Based on the patient’s individual needs the team may include:
- Medical Specialists – including the area’s top oncologists, surgeons and support specialists who work collectively to create personalized treatment plans that are right for you.
- Nurse Navigator – offers guidance and support throughout treatment. Helps to eliminate barriers to timely diagnosis and treatment.
- Nutritionist – provides customized nutrition plans and guidance as needed.
- Physical Therapists – help patients maintain strength during treatment or recover after treatment or surgery.
- Survivor Coordinators – to provide post-treatment support. · Tumor Board – An interdisciplinary team that meets the center once a month. Discussed individual patient cases to discuss the best possible course of treatment for that patient.
- Tumor Board – An interdisciplinary team that meets the center once a month. Discussed individual patient cases to discuss the best possible course of treatment for that patient.
- Support Groups – Individuals who know first-hand what you or loved ones are experiencing and can share vital feedback and support.
Advanced technology: To fight cancer, we employ the latest technology such as the center’s new, state-of-the-art Elekta Synergy® Linear Accelerator, which can focus radiation so precisely that healthy tissue surrounding a tumor is left intact. It was the very first to use 3D imaging for setting up radiation treatments. It represents the latest cancer-fighting software in all of Georgia, and enables our specialists to accurately target tumors and remember precise locations for follow-up visits. After the first visit, when the proper dosage and exact position is calibrated specifically for the patient, treatment sessions can take just five to fifteen minutes.
Convenience: A range of comprehensive services – including both radiation and chemotherapy – is available at the center, which is located next door to Memorial Health Meadows Hospital.
The Tommy and Shirley Strickland Cancer Center offers the most comprehensive cancer care services in the region and brings the leading cancer care specialists practicing the latest in clinical care and innovative treatments to Vidalia.
External Radiation Therapy: During external radiation therapy, radiation is directed through the skin to the cancer and immediate surrounding area to destroy the main tumor and nearby cancer cells. Our radiation oncologists use several types of external beam radiation.
- Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT) - Three-dimensional representations of the tumor and surrounding organs enable your radiation oncologist to accurately tailor beams to the size and shape of your tumor. The beams target the tumor with precision, leaving non-cancerous tissue minimally exposed. This type of therapy is often used to treat tumors that would otherwise be considered too close to vital organs for radiation therapy.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) - IMRT is a specialized form of 3D-CRT that allows radiation to be even more exactly shaped to fit a tumor. This type of cancer treatment is used to break up radiation into many small “beamlets” that can be individually modified. By “bending” each beam shape and controlling its intensity, your radiation oncologist may be able to further limit healthy tissue exposure and, in some situations, deliver higher doses to the tumor itself.
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) - IGRT is used to improve radiation delivery when tumors move between treatments. With IGRT, radiation treatment is guided by imaging technologies such as CT scans, ultrasound or X-rays so the tumor’s movement can be tracked and your treatment team can direct radiation to its exact location.
Interventional Radiology: Interventional radiology uses minimally-invasive procedures to diagnose and treat various diseases. These procedures often have less risk, less pain and less recovery time compared to open surgery. For cancer patients, a catheter may be placed inside the body to treat patients non-surgically. Other forms of interventional radiology may also be used to treat cancer or target a tumor.
Chemotherapy Treatments: This treatment involves the use of cancer-fighting drugs designed to target tumors and destroy their cells. They can be administered in a variety of ways including IV, catheterization or pill form. At the cancer center, your progress with these drugs will be carefully monitored by an experienced oncology team.
Targeted Molecular Therapy: Targeted Molecular Therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to target specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Blocking these molecules may kill cancer cells or may keep cancer from growing or spreading. This form of therapy may cause less harm to normal cells and have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment.
Lymphedema Treatment: Lymphedema, or swelling in the extremities due to the accumulation of lymphatic fluid, sometimes occurs in cancer patients as a result of surgery or treatment. The cancer center offers a non-invasive therapy that uses a gentle massage technique. This form of treatment can decrease swelling and have a positive effect on the immune system.
Imaging Services: The cancer center employs a range of imaging services – such as X-ray, computerized tomography, or CT scan, and positron emission tomography, or PET scan – to detect and monitor cancerous tissues and tumors. A PET scan in particular can help physicians detect abnormalities on the cellular level. Each form of imaging has its benefits and limitations. Your physician may use more than one form of imaging to monitor and help treat your cancer.
Radiation Treatment Process
Once the diagnosis has been made, you will probably talk with your primary care physician along with several cancer specialists, such as a surgeon, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist, to discuss your treatment choices.
These specialists will work together to help recommend the best treatment for you. In some cases, your cancer will need to be treated by using more than one type of treatment. For example, if you have breast cancer, you might have surgery to remove the tumor (by a surgeon), then have radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells in or near your breast (by a radiation oncologist). You also might receive chemotherapy (by a medical oncologist) to destroy cancer cells that have traveled to other parts of the body.
Meeting with a Radiation Oncologist: If you are considering radiation therapy, you must first meet with a radiation oncologist to see if radiation therapy is right for you. During your first visit, your doctor will evaluate your need for radiation therapy and its likely results. This includes reviewing your current medical problems, past medical history, past surgical history, family history, medications, allergies and lifestyle. The doctor will also perform a physical exam to assess the extent of your disease and judge your general physical condition.
You may also be seen by a medical student, a resident (radiation oncologist in training), a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant or a nurse. After reviewing your medical tests, including CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans, and completing a thorough examination, your radiation oncologist will discuss with you the potential benefits and risks of radiation therapy and answer your questions. For a list of questions that you may want to ask, please see the section “What questions should I ask my doctor?”
Simulation: To be most effective, radiation therapy must be aimed precisely at the same target or targets each and every time treatment is given. The process of measuring your body and marking your skin to help your team direct the beams of radiation safely and exactly to their intended locations is called simulation
During simulation, your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist place you on the simulation machine in the exact position you will be in during the actual treatment. Your radiation therapist, under your doctor’s supervision, then marks the area to be treated directly on your skin or on immobilization devices. Immobilization devices are molds, casts, headrests or other devices that help you remain in the same position during the entire treatment. The radiation therapist marks your skin and/or the immobilization devices either with a bright, temporary paint or a set of small, permanent tattoos.
Your radiation oncologist may request that special blocks or shields be made for you. These blocks or shields are put in the external beam therapy machine before each of your treatments and are used to shape the radiation to your tumor and keep the rays from hitting normal tissue. Multileaf collimators may also be used to shape the beam and achieve safe delivery of your radiation treatment.
Treatment Planning: Once you have finished with the simulation, your radiation oncologist and other members of the treatment team review the information they obtained during simulation along with your previous medical tests to develop a treatment plan. Often, a special treatment planning CT scan is done to help with the simulation and treatment planning. This CT scan is in addition to your diagnostic CT scan. Frequently, sophisticated treatment planning computer software is used to help design the best possible treatment plan.
After reviewing all of this information, your doctor will write a prescription that outlines exactly how much radiation you will receive and to what parts of your body.
Get plenty of rest: Many patients experience fatigue during radiation therapy, so it is important to make sure you are well rested. If possible, ask friends and family to help out during treatment by running errands and preparing meals. This will help you get the rest you need to focus on fighting your cancer.
Follow doctor’s orders: In many cases, your doctor will ask you to call if you develop a fever of 101 degrees or higher. Be sure to read your instructions as far as caring for yourself during treatment.
Eat a balanced, nutritious diet: A nutritionist, nurse or doctor may work with you to make sure you are eating the right foods to get the vitamins and minerals you need. With certain types of radiation, you may need to change your diet to minimize side effects. You should not attempt to lose weight during radiation therapy since you need more calories due to your cancer and treatment.
Treat the skin that is exposed to radiation with extra care: The skin in the area receiving treatment may become red and sensitive, similar to getting a sunburn. Your radiation oncology nurse will review specific instructions with you for caring for your skin. Some guidelines include:
- Clean the skin daily with warm water and a mild soap recommended by your nurse.
- Avoid using any lotions, perfumes, deodorants or powders in the treatment area unless approved by your doctor or nurse. Try not to use products containing alcohol and perfumes.
- Avoid putting anything hot or cold on the treated skin. This includes heating pads and ice packs.
- Stay out of the sun. If you must spend time outdoors, wear a hat or clothing to protect your skin. After treatment, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
- Seek out support.
There are many emotional demands that you must cope with during your cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is common to feel anxious, depressed, afraid or hopeless. It may help to talk about your feelings with a close friend, family member, nurse, social worker or psychologist. To find a support group in your area, ask your radiation oncology nurse. There are many support groups that meet in person, over the phone or on the Internet.
Follow-up: After treatment is completed, follow-up appointments will be scheduled so that your radiation oncologist can make sure your recovery is proceeding normally and can continue to monitor your health status. Your radiation oncologist may also order additional diagnostic tests. Reports on your treatment may also be sent to the other doctors helping treat your cancer.
As time goes by, the number of times you need to visit your radiation oncologist will decrease. However, you should know that your radiation oncology team will always be available should you need to speak to someone about your treatment.
Oncology at Memorial Health
Oncology refers to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Oncology treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation, medication or surgery. Oncologists can specialize in one of three fields of oncology: medical, radiation or surgery.Learn about Oncology