When a Diagnosis is Cancer, Where you are Treated First Matters
Warren Bratton and his wife, Eugenia, were taking a leisurely drive along Lake Michigan when "that feeling" came on again. He felt like he was about to pass out in the passenger seat. His wife drove him straight to the University of Chicago Medicine emergency department.
Bratton, who had been suffering from episodes of chest pain and feeling faint, did not have heart disease or vertigo, as physicians at a local hospital had suggested.
Tests revealed that a large growth in Bratton's chest had wrapped around his aorta and was cutting off the blood supply to his brain. The Aurora, Ill., resident also had a mass on his neck. Sonali Smith, MD, director of the lymphoma program at the University of Chicago Medicine, diagnosed a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
For the most effective treatment, an accurate diagnosis is critically important. The University of Chicago Medicine's multidisciplinary lymphoma team has the experience and expertise to help identify even the most difficult to diagnose of the approximately 60 different types of lymphoma. Physicians from around the world consult with the team's renowned hematopathologists on complex cases.
Lymphoma patients at the University of Chicago Medicine also have access to clinical trials of promising new drugs.
Bratton, who had a rare and challenging cancer, began an aggressive chemotherapy approach that saved his life. Five years later, the 69-year-old retired locomotive engineer feels great and is considered cured.
"If I had not been treated at the University of Chicago Medicine, I wouldn't be here today," Bratton said. "I literally owe my life to Dr. Smith and her team."
"Where you are treated first can make a difference," said Smith. Along with access to new chemotherapy drugs and targeted therapies, patients may benefit from seeing a specialist and a team of physicians who treat a high volume of patients with their disease.
"It's important that the expertise all be in one place -- the best team to get the curative approach we're after," said Ezra Cohen, MD, an oncologist who specializes in head and neck cancer and associate director for education for the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Many cancers are not commonly seen in a community. I see patients all the time whose outcome could have been different had we seen them sooner."
This story originally ran in the Fall 2012 issue of Imagine, a quarterly magazine published by the University of Chicago Medicine.
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