Battling Women's Cancers
Cancer of the female reproductive organs strikes more than 80,000 women in the United States each year, ultimately claiming the lives of about one-third of them and depriving many women in their reproductive years of the ability to have children. But the growing field of gynecologic oncology has made treatment of these illnesses dramatically more effective.
Since 2009, for example, a special division of Westchester Medical Center, Advanced OB/Gyn Associates, has offered the Lower Hudson Valley comprehensive services to combat these dangerous cancers. “Our goal is to provide our patients with innovative, accessible, compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care that is close to home,” says Sean Tedjarati, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and Robotic Gynecologic Surgery, which treats patients with all forms of gynecologic cancers and pre-malignant disorders of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, endometrium, vulva and cervix.
The division also offers diagnostic, counseling and comprehensive management services to patients with a high risk of, or a genetic predisposition to, gynecologic cancers. It places a special focus, in collaboration with other colleagues, on helping women preserve their fertility while undergoing cancer treatment. Dr. Tedjarati and his colleague, Tarah Pua, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist who joined the Medical Center in August 2011, have already seen more than 700 patients and performed hundreds of surgeries.
“Many of these complex operations require advanced expertise and the multidisciplinary services of a large hospital like ours to provide the most up-to-date and advanced care to many patients who have multiple other medical problems,” says Dr. Tedjarati. “We are the largest academic referral medical center between New York City and Albany.” “It’s great to be able to provide total care from start to finish,” says Dr. Pua. “A woman comes to us with a diagnosis—often feeling no hope—and we can restore her hope with timely and effective treatment. We also have the time to build relationships with patients and their families from start to finish.”
Both physicians are trained in robotic and other advanced surgical techniques, chemotherapy and additional therapies for management of all forms of gynecologic malignancies. “The biggest trend in our field is the use of less invasive procedures to achieve the same successful results,” says Dr. Tedjarati. These techniques significantly reduce pain and scarring and shorten recovery times.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapies are now designed to be more “targeted” to attack just the tumor while sparing healthy surrounding tissues. One of the great advantages here is in helping maintain fertility. “Many more women can save their eggs and, once treatment is over, successfully have children,” the doctor explains. Future advances in the field will be tried fi rst at facilities like Westchester Medical Center.
Recently, the division joined the Gynecologic Oncology Group, a not-forprofi t research organization that will allow it to participate in national clinical trials for women with ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer. Inpatient services are currently rendered on a new gynecologic oncology floor with dedicated private and semi-private rooms, peaceful surroundings and many of the comforts of home, including flat-screen televisions and a serene environment with dedicated nursing care.
Later this year, the division will move its outpatient offices into a new, 6,300-square-foot facility at the Bradhurst Avenue medical complex that will include a new chemotherapy infusion center, where women can see their oncologist and receive post-surgical treatment all in one area. Also, a third physician is being recruited to join Drs. Tedjarati and Pua. “We are trying to make it easier for patients,” says Dr. Pua. “That’s important for women because the battle against gynecologic cancers is a tough one. But these days it’s a battle women are better positioned than ever to win.”
THE 3 TOP GYNECOLOGIC CANCERS
CERVICAL CANCER almost always occurs in women who have been sexually active and who have a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV)—although most women with the virus do not develop the disease. Also at risk are women who smoke or are HIV-positive.
ENDOMETRIAL CANCER is most common in women age 50 and older. It’s more apt to occur in those who have taken estrogen therapy without progesterone, have a history of hereditary colon cancer, are obese, have never been pregnant or have never taken oral contraceptives.
OVARIAN CANCER, the third most common variety, causes the most deaths. Women’s risk for this disease rises with age and is greater for those who have never been pregnant; are obese; have had breast cancer or a family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer; have never taken oral contraceptives; or have taken estrogen therapy without progesterone.
Source: American Cancer Society
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