The Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare in Flagstaff and Sedona are distinguished by multidisciplinary medical teams made up of compassionate radiation oncologists, nurses, social workers and dietitians dedicated to providing patients with the latest in cancer care.
During traditional cancer treatment, patients often experience a variety of side effects from exposure to radiation – a highly effective tool in killing cancer cells, but also a danger to healthy portions of the body. As the science of fighting cancer has evolved, so, too, has the approach of using radiation.
Our cancer specialists are at the forefront of radiation treatment, utilizing innovative equipment to minimize exposure to the harmful effects of radiation while maximizing its benefits.
Along with treatment innovations, oncology providers have developed a greater understanding about when people should be screened for various cancers, as well as which risk factors contribute to the incidence of cancer.
Technical Advances in Radiation Therapy
Fortunately, most types of cancer can be treated, and thanks to the precision of stereotactic radiosurgery technology, CCNAH is at the forefront of cancer treatment advances.
David Beyer, M.D., radiation oncologist and medical director at the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare in Sedona, says traditional radiation therapy means daily treatment for up to two months. Stereotactic radiosurgery, or SRS, and stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, allow providers to geometrically pinpoint the location of tumors in the body and deliver a higher, more targeted dose of radiation in less time – sometimes as few as five treatment days.
“We’re getting much more precise in the delivery of radiation,” Beyer said. “This can get us within a millimeter of the tumor.”
Beyer added that one major goal in cancer care is to reduce collateral damage to healthy tissue. Stereotactic technology helps ensure noncancerous tissue is exposed to a minimal radiation dose, which means fewer side effects from treatment.
Currently, stereotactic technology is used to treat only certain types of brain, lung, liver and prostate cancers, but Beyer said the technology is developing swiftly. Soon, a broader range of patients may benefit.
Brachytherapy and Prostate Cancer
Another promising development in cancer care is brachytherapy, which delivers more exact radiation to tumors via temporary or permanent radioactive implants.
Most often used to treat prostate cancer, brachytherapy (commonly known as prostate seed implants) is a groundbreaking alternative to radiation therapy or surgery. This procedure involves placing small, rice-sized radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland, where they deliver an ultra-high, cumulative dose of radiation to the cancer while exposing surrounding areas to only a low dose.
3-D mammograms are now available in Sedona and Cottonwood. NAH Medical Imaging Services, with locations at Verde Valley Medical Center − Sedona Campus and Verde Valley Medical Imaging Center in Cottonwood, now uses 3-D technology for all breast screening exams.
Verde Valley Medical Center’s Imaging Department offers 3-D mammograms for diagnostic screenings.
Breast screening exam are available by appointment at patient request, and yearly screenings should begin at age 45 for women at average risk. Women who are at higher than average risk should consult with their primary care provider about when screenings should begin. Diagnostic screenings are performed if a patient had a previous abnormal screening; reported breast cancer symptoms; or is referred by a physician. A radiologist is available onsite at VVMC to examine diagnostic screening results with patients.
Benefits of a 3-D mammogram include earlier cancer detection (which can increase survival rates); more precise diagnosis of dense breast tissue; fewer false positives and reduced related callbacks; and less time spent in compression, reducing exposure to radiation.
To schedule a mammogram, call 928-649-1260. A 3-D mammogram will cost an additional $15, which may be covered by insurance.
Improved therapies notwithstanding, Beyer said the best way to fight cancer is to practice preventive care.
“Many of our lifestyle choices put us at risk for cancers,” he explained, listing exposure to sun, tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods as prime suspects for increased cancer risk. “The best thing people can do is to avoid the things we know put them at risk for cancer.”
In addition, Beyer said, family history plays a role. If a particular type of cancer runs in your family, it’s wise to stay alert and informed in case you’re at risk of developing it. In warm, sunny climates like Arizona, skin protection is vital. Nancy Foreman, B.S.N., O.C.N., a nurse navigator at CCNAH in Flagstaff, encourages limiting sun exposure; using a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, value of 30 or higher; wearing sunglasses to block UV rays; and checking your skin at least once a month for any new or changing moles, blemishes, freckles or other marks. QCBN
By Sophia Papa
Northern Arizona Healthcare is creating healthier communities by providing wellness, prevention and medical care through Flagstaff Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center, Verde Valley Medical Center – Sedona Campus, Verde Valley Medical Center – Camp Verde Campus, Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group – Flagstaff, Verde Valley Medical Clinic, the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare, Northern Arizona Healthcare Orthopedic Surgery Center, EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine, Weight Management Clinic, the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, the Sleep & Pulmonary Center, BeWellNow, Guardian Air and Guardian Medical Transport. We also provide comprehensive imaging, laboratory and pharmacy services throughout the region. Many of the services we provide, including Fit Kids of Arizona, The Taylor House and Valley View Care, receive major funding through the NAH Foundation.
For more information on Northern Arizona Healthcare programs and services, visit NAHealth.com. “Like” NAH at Facebook.com/NorthernArizonaHealthcare.