There are few words in the English vocabulary that carry with them the dread and negative feelings that accompany the word “cancer.” Despite awareness and ongoing medical research, cancer continues to be the leading cause of death worldwide, as well as here in central Illinois.

While no one wants to be told of cancer in their body, there is some comfort in knowing that central Illinois offers the latest in cancer treatments without traveling to other cities or states.

At Methodist Medical Center, cancer services are a unique combination of technology, bringing together the latest in cancer-fighting diagnosis and treatments, with the special caring that has come to be synonymous with Methodist. The Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons recently granted Three Year Accreditation with Commendation to the Methodist Cancer Program. Accreditation is given only to those facilities that have voluntarily committed to providing the highest level of quality cancer care and undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance.

The Heidrich Radiation Oncology Center
The Heidrich Radiation Oncology Center at Methodist is central Illinois’ leader in cancer treatment. The Heidrich Center was the first treatment center in central Illinois to use high-dose rate brachytherapy (the use of radioactive material to provide radiation treatment). Methodist was also the first cancer center in the Midwest to offer prostate seeding implants for the treatment of prostate cancer.

As recently as 2008, Methodist became one of a few select sites in the nation to offer the TomoTherapy treatment for cancer. Available since January ‘08, TomoTherapy is the first system to combine the precision and 3D imaging of a CT (computerized tomography) scan with the power of high-energy radiation treatment. With TomoTherapy, physicians are able to selectively destroy cancerous tumors while avoiding healthy surrounding tissue. Unlike conventional radiotherapy, which delivers a wide beam of radiation from just two or three directions, TomoTherapy combines sophisticated IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) with a unique spiral delivery pattern. Radiation is directed precisely at the target from an infinite number of angles. The result can be targeted treatment with fewer side effects.

The Methodist Breast Health Center
A Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, the Methodist Breast Health Center offers women the latest in high-tech breast cancer treatment along with a caring and knowledgeable staff. Advanced imaging services for the early detection and accurate diagnosis of breast cancer include all-digital mammography and the area’s only bilateral breast MRI using the latest 3T MRI equipment. The GE 3T MRI provides physicians with improved clarity and detail for breast MRIs. Women diagnosed with breast cancer get the support of the Methodist Breast Health Navigator. The navigator’s role is to help patients and their families through the healthcare system as decisions are made about testing and treatment options. The multi-disciplinary Breast Health Center team also includes the area’s leading surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and other specialists, who work together to develop a customized treatment plan for every patient. The Methodist Breast Health Center can expedite care with the Comprehensive Breast Day, where you can see multiple specialists on the same day, all in one place.

For women facing breast removal, plastic surgeons working with breast surgeons at Methodist can make use of SPY technology—specialized imaging equipment designed to improve outcomes for patients of breast reconstruction and other plastic surgeries. The equipment can be used prior to, during and after surgery to produce real-time visual images of blood vessels during plastic, micro and reconstructive surgeries. The SPY images enable surgeons to optimize surgeries, eliminate guesswork and potentially avoid postoperative complications, including repeat surgical operations.

Downstate PET Center
Methodist is also home to the Gemini GXL PET/CT Scanner, using PET (Positron Emission Tomography) technology. PET’s unique imaging capability helps doctors diagnose different types of cancer and guides physicians to the most beneficial therapy. PET scans help doctors determine the extent of cancer, detect recurring cancer early, and monitor the response to treatment.

Autologous Peripheral Stem Cell Transplant Program
Methodist is the only downstate facility offering a FACT (Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy) accredited stem cell transplant program. Methodist offers autologous stem cell transplant, in which patients are their own donors.

Some cancers require higher-than-normal doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for treatment. These higher-dose treatments can destroy the patient’s existing bone marrow and alter normal blood cell production. The resultant blood cell abnormalities can be life threatening. Peripheral blood stem cells are taken from the patient in order to replace the damaged bone marrow. The peripheral stem cells are harvested, frozen until needed, then given back following the high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy used to destroy the cancer cells.

What Causes Cancer?
Scientists have learned that cancer can be caused by changes in genes that normally control the growth and death of cells. Certain lifestyle and environmental factors can change some normal genes into genes that allow the growth of cancer. Many gene changes that lead to cancer are the result of tobacco use, diet, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the workplace or in the environment. Some gene alterations are inherited. Although being infected with certain viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B and C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), increases the risk of some types of cancer, cancer itself is not contagious.

Keep in mind that not everyone with an important risk factor for cancer actually gets the disease. However, people who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer can help protect themselves by avoiding risk factors whenever possible and by getting regular checkups so that if cancer develops, it is likely to be found and treated early.

While the search continues for a cure, cancer patients in central Illinois can take hope from the advanced treatment and diagnosis available today at Methodist. iBi