Olympic Medical Cancer Clinic oncologist: Sequim facility has the most experience with ‘gold standard’

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Cancer Clinic’s TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, once the only such device north of Stanford University in California, is now the gold standard of cancer treatments, Dr. Rena Zimmerman, a radiation oncologist at the clinic, told about 60 persons attending the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce weekly luncheon.

The equipment used by the clinic, located at 844 N. Fifth Ave. in Sequim, may now be the standard, but the clinic, only one of five cancer treatment clinics in the state accredited by the American College of Radiology, has the most experience at using the linear accelerator to treat cancer, Zimmerman said.

New radiation treatments can more accurately target just the cancer, and do less damage to surrounding tissue than older radiation therapy processes, and can even completely burn out a cancer, sometimes negating the need for invasive surgery, she said.

A CT scanner attached to the linear accelerator machine can map the location of the tumor while the patient is on the table, which she said further increases the accuracy of the treatment.

She said other new methods of screening are catching cancers early — a key to increased survival rates.

The new 3-D digital mammograms the clinic uses can locate 41 percent more invasive than conventional digital mammography, she said.

The clinic also provides lung scans to meet a new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that smokers age 55 to 74, with a 30-pack per year or more habit within the last 15 years, receive screenings for lung cancer.

(The task force is a preventative medicine group not associated with governmental agencies.)

The most exciting next step in cancer treatment is the use of information from studying the DNA of both patients and the cancers themselves, Zimmerman said.

She said that a DNA screening can help identify how a particular person or cancer is likely to respond to various treatments and which treatments are most effective.

It can also help reduce the number of treatments a patient will need to go through, if the cancer is identified as being one that has a lower risk of reoccurrence, she said.

Zimmerman said that the clinic’s cancer committee is considering adding a telemedicine link from the clinic for patients to receive genetic counseling to guide their treatment without having to travel to Seattle.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 21. 2014 8:02PM
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