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April 5, 2011 > Radiation Oncology Center Gives Patients Good Reasons to Stay Close for Cancer Care

Radiation Oncology Center Gives Patients Good Reasons to Stay Close for Cancer Care

In 2010, more than 157,000 Californians were newly diagnosed with cancer. Although the disease used to be thought of as an automatic death sentence, the number of Americans who survive cancer today is growing, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In the Tri-City area, the Washington Radiation Oncology Center (ROC) has provided advanced, individualized, effective cancer treatment for more than 25 years. The Center has leading-edge technology and a staff of board-certified radiation oncologists specially trained in the using radiation therapy to treat cancer. Over time, it has made important advancements in technology and built a skilled staff of radiation therapy specialists so that Tri-City residents now have easy access to many of the latest cancer treatments without leaving their community.

Treatment advances bring benefits, challenges

Over the last 20 years, there have been numerous advancements in radiation therapy for cancer treatment, and this has resulted in longer life expectancy and better quality of life for many patients. At the same time, the use of state-of-the art technologies and techniques has presented added challenges for physicians and other care providers because the planning and administration of these therapies is far more complex.

"Today, all aspects of cancer care require close coordination involving a team of specialists, including a radiation oncologist, medical radiation physicist, dosimetrist, radiation therapist and radiation therapy nurse," states Michael Bastasch, M.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist at the Center. "Thanks to our team of highly qualified personnel, Washington Hospital is offering excellent treatment for a range of different cancers right here in our community."

For example, the Center provides Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), which reduces recovery time, side effects and complications associated with conventional radiation therapy. With IMRT, a computer-controlled linear accelerator delivers precise doses of radiation that conform closely to the target cancer site. Higher doses of radiation can be focused on the tumor or parts of the tumor, with minimal exposure to nearby normal tissue and critical organs.

"We are very experienced in the application of IMRT, which is difficult to apply correctly," says Dr. Bastasch, who trained at Baylor College of Medicine, the first radiation oncology center in the U.S. to use IMRT to treat cancer. "It is a very complicated process requiring intensive coordination between the radiation oncologist and the medical radiation physicist."

Washington Hospital has also made an investment in developing an electronic medical record (EMR), which is designed to support more accurate, timely communication among all the appropriate care providers.

"EMR is an extremely potent component of patient care," explains Dr. Bastasch. "It makes care more seamless because information is known quickly and universally within the Hospital."

The team approach, close to home

Communication and teamwork are keys to excellence in cancer care. At Washington Hospital, a multidisciplinary group of cancer specialists and care providers called a Tumor Board convenes to review all aspects of a patient's treatment, including oncology, chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Tumor boards are also a practice at large medical institutions. At Washington Hospital, because programs and personnel are well coordinated and work in close proximity, it is easier for the necessary specialists to gather and collaborate as a team. All perspectives are considered in developing the most effective care plan, and this approach has been shown to result in better outcomes for patients.

Radiation therapy often requires cancer patients to make frequent trips to and from the treatment center. In addition, physicians and care providers communicate and coordinate more effectively when they already work together in the same community. For these reasons, it makes sense for patients to get all aspects of their treatment close to home. The advanced services and skilled team at Washington's ROC make this possible for Tri-City residents.

"Moreover, if a patient needs to be hospitalized, it is better when care is being provided locally," adds Dr. Bastasch. "This avoids the risk of interruptions in therapy and supports fast, accurate communication between care providers."

Recognized for excellence

Having a well-coordinated program also means physicians, administration and staff in the Washington Hospital Healthcare System work together to meet national standards equivalent to the premier cancer centers around the country. Last year, the Cancer Care Program received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. The Hospital is also one of only four in California to be designated a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American Cancer Society.

"As a Radiation Oncology Center and a cancer care program, we don't need to be big to fly far," Dr. Bastasch continues. "Here, we're all about community cancer treatment, and our patients experience a level of care that is equivalent to the best in the nation."

Learn More About Cancer Care

To learn more about the treatment services offered at the Washington Radiation Oncology Center, call (510) 796-7212. To learn more about the Community Cancer Program at Washington Hospital, visit

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