State-of-the art facilities and treatments, a strong clinical research program, and new programs for palliative care and survivorship
The healthcare landscape is changing rapidly, and oncology care is not exempt from this change. According to the Community Oncology Practice Impact Report issued in June 2013, 22 percent of oncology clinics and practices have closed over the past six years, while 44 percent have merged, been acquired or are in a contractual relationship with a hospital. Of those that remain, one-third struggle financially. The impact of these changes remains unknown, but cancer patients are likely to find treatment more difficult to access and more expensive than ever. Despite these growing challenges, Illinois CancerCare continues to grow and thrive with the mission “to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to our patients and families.”
Facilities & Treatments
The physicians of Illinois CancerCare are committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities and treatments for the residents of central and western Illinois. To accomplish this goal, the practice is expanding several facilities. Built in 2013, the Peoria facility is adding a 20,000-square-foot addition to house administration, business office, research department, triage and IT, which allows for the remodeling of 13,000 square feet of existing space to expand the lobby, laboratory, imaging department, outpatient areas and retail pharmacy. The imaging department will add a new, state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner, making the most current technology available for cancer patients, while outpatient areas and the pharmacy will be enlarged with private spaces for consultation and counseling. The expansion will also incorporate improved clinical space for the gynecological oncologists, palliative care and survivorship teams.
In addition to the Peoria expansion, the Bloomington and Galesburg clinics will relocate to larger facilities in 2014. The Bloomington clinic will triple in size, with expanded patient services, including an in-house laboratory. In addition, as a result of Dr. John McClean and his staff joining Illinois CancerCare in September, a regional cancer clinic is being designed for occupancy in late 2014 to provide services for Galesburg and the surrounding area.
Clinical research remains a pillar of care provided by the practice, founded in 1977. Since the first patient enrolled in 1979, more than 10,000 patients have participated in cancer clinical trials, a commitment that has led Illinois CancerCare to be recognized as one of the leading private practices in the nation. Its affiliations with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Chicago provide opportunities to bring cutting-edge treatments to the local community, where patients can stay close to home and their support systems. In addition, the Illinois Oncology Research Association, based at Illinois CancerCare, is celebrating its 30th year as a continuously funded CCOP (Community Clinical Oncology Program), a grant-funded program through the National Cancer Institute that also brings clinical trials to the community.
Genetics and genomics have become an integral part of cancer care over the past two decades, and their value in oncology has grown exponentially as more is learned about their application to cancer prevention and treatment. Approximately five to 10 percent of all cancers are inherited, and those who inherit abnormal genes are at an increased risk for developing cancer—and are more likely to develop cancer at an early age. Under the direction of Dr. James Knost, a formal genetics program was formed in 2012, and he and his team have provided genetic counseling and testing to more than 400 new patients. The clinic also manages patients identified as high-risk for developing certain cancers, and is able to link molecular test findings with cancer clinical trials offered through the practice.
Palliative Care & Survivorship
Illinois CancerCare also helps patients through palliative care, a specialized program focused on decreasing pain and other distressing symptoms for patients with advanced or life-limiting illness. Launched in 2013, the palliative care team includes advance practice nurses, medical office assistants and registered nurses, as well as a pharmacist, medical director, registered dietician, social worker and licensed counselor. The team provides emotional and social support according to patients’ culture, needs, values and beliefs, working in partnership with the medical oncologist to provide the best care possible. Communication focuses on complex medical issues, developing a plan of care, and providing emotional support to the patient, caregiver and family. Where appropriate, the team assists with advance care planning to support patient wishes, discuss life support preferences and make end-of-life decisions.
2014 will be an exciting year at Illinois CancerCare with the launch of a new survivorship program. According to the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship, an individual is considered a cancer survivor “from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.” It is estimated that by the year 2030, the number of people living with cancer will grow 45 percent, in large part due to an aging population. It’s important that cancer survivors exist in a healthy state, and the Survivorship Clinic will work toward that goal.
Led by Drs. Nguyet Le-Lindqwister and Diane Prager, the clinic will serve patients who have completed active treatment and are moving onto the next phase of care. A written plan will be developed to address specific physical and psychosocial needs, with active patient participation in mind. The survivorship plan will monitor for cancer recurrence or progression, manage long-term and late side effects, and provide education regarding cancer screening and risk reduction. Additionally, coordination of care with nutritional or psychosocial counseling, sexual dysfunction counseling, pain management and physical therapy needs will be addressed. This comprehensive plan of care will allow cancer survivors to regain control of their lives and “survive” in the healthiest physical, emotional and psychosocial state possible. iBi
Janet Varnes is executive director of Illinois CancerCare and the llinois CancerCare Foundation. For more information, visit illinoiscancercare.com.