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  • November 19, 2021

    Funds to Aid Transportation Costs for Patients Going to and From Cancer Care

    BALTIMORE—The MedStar Health Cancer Network (MHCN) was awarded a $15,000 transportation grant by the American Cancer Society (ACS), to help relieve some of the financial burden on cancer patients needing to travel to and from specialized cancer centers for treatment.

    The transportation grant will benefit all eligible patients receiving treatment at any of our cancer center locations:

    • MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    • MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    • MedStar Harbor Hospital
    • MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
    • MedStar Montgomery Medical Center
    • MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

    More than 27,000 Marylanders are diagnosed annually with invasive cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and getting to scheduled treatment may be one of their greatest roadblocks.

    To help patients get the critical care they need, American Cancer Society community transportation grants are awarded at a local level to health systems, treatment centers and community organizations. These grants are available in select communities through an application process and focus on addressing unmet transportation needs of cancer patients, particularly vulnerable populations experiencing an unequal burden of cancer.

    The funds will be used toward any direct patient transportation barrier to pay for gas cards, Ride Share rides, taxi rides or vouchers, bus passes, etc.

    “We’re very grateful to the American Cancer Society for providing this grant,” said Albert Aboulafia, medical director for the MedStar Health Cancer Network. “The funds are an essential boost to efforts to minimize disparities in patient access to care, that may result from inequities in work, wealth, income, education, housing and overall standard of living. The ACS collaborates with community health partners to reach individuals in areas with higher burdens of cancer who are limited or have no access to transportation. Even the best treatment can’t work if a patient can’t get there.”

    “Some patients don’t have access to transportation at all or are just too sick to drive themselves,” said Billie J. Baldwin, manager of the MHCN Oncology Support Services Program.

    “Access to care is a big problem in our country, with lower income families, or patients living out in rural communities suffering the most from disparities. Transportation programs are vital for these patients to get the treatments they need and deserve.”

    For additional information about the MedStar Health Cancer Network, go to: https://www.medstarcancer.org/ or for for information on ACS, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

    # # #

    About MedStar Health

    At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

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  • November 19, 2021

    Funds to Aid Transportation Costs for Patients Going to and From Cancer Care

    BALTIMORE—The MedStar Health Cancer Network (MHCN) was awarded a $15,000 transportation grant by the American Cancer Society (ACS), to help relieve some of the financial burden on cancer patients needing to travel to and from specialized cancer centers for treatment.

    The transportation grant will benefit all eligible patients receiving treatment at any of our cancer center locations:

    • MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    • MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    • MedStar Harbor Hospital
    • MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
    • MedStar Montgomery Medical Center
    • MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

    More than 27,000 Marylanders are diagnosed annually with invasive cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and getting to scheduled treatment may be one of their greatest roadblocks.

    To help patients get the critical care they need, American Cancer Society community transportation grants are awarded at a local level to health systems, treatment centers and community organizations. These grants are available in select communities through an application process and focus on addressing unmet transportation needs of cancer patients, particularly vulnerable populations experiencing an unequal burden of cancer.

    The funds will be used toward any direct patient transportation barrier to pay for gas cards, Ride Share rides, taxi rides or vouchers, bus passes, etc.

    “We’re very grateful to the American Cancer Society for providing this grant,” said Albert Aboulafia, medical director for the MedStar Health Cancer Network. “The funds are an essential boost to efforts to minimize disparities in patient access to care, that may result from inequities in work, wealth, income, education, housing and overall standard of living. The ACS collaborates with community health partners to reach individuals in areas with higher burdens of cancer who are limited or have no access to transportation. Even the best treatment can’t work if a patient can’t get there.”

    “Some patients don’t have access to transportation at all or are just too sick to drive themselves,” said Billie J. Baldwin, manager of the MHCN Oncology Support Services Program.

    “Access to care is a big problem in our country, with lower income families, or patients living out in rural communities suffering the most from disparities. Transportation programs are vital for these patients to get the treatments they need and deserve.”

    For additional information about the MedStar Health Cancer Network, go to: https://www.medstarcancer.org/ or for for information on ACS, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

    # # #

    About MedStar Health

    At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

  • A magseed marker, about the size of a grain of rice, on a human hand
    October 29, 2021

    MedStar Montgomery becomes the first hospital in the region helping patients access more accurate and less invasive breast tumor removal with the Magseed® marker.

    Olney, MDMedStar Montgomery Medical Center recently introduced an innovative cancer technology, the Magseed® marker, to improve outcomes and the standard of cancer care in Montgomery County. The Magseed® marker helps women benefit from more accurate marking and removal of breast tumors.

    The Magseed® marker is a tiny seed placed in the tissue to mark tumors before surgery and help the surgeon accurately locate the cancer and remove it in one piece. Once placed, it cannot be dislodged or damaged1. The Magseed® can be placed days, weeks or even months ahead of surgery to mark any cancer site for accurate removal.

    As the first hospital in the region to utilize the Magseed® marker, MedStar Montgomery serves as an innovative local leader in breast health. Oncologists at MedStar Montgomery began using the Magseed® marker in mid-August, and already deem the technology to be a welcome addition for doctors and patients.

    According to Dr. Jennifer D. Son, Breast Surgeon, MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, “When it comes to cancer marking, our surgeons and patients have found the Magseed® marker to be vastly safer, more comfortable, more effective, and more time efficient than traditional guidewires. Our team can place the Magseed marker well in advance of surgery, which means patients don’t have to worry about additional procedures on the day of surgery.”

    The Magseed® marker replaces the traditional guidewire method of cancer marking, which has been shown in numerous studies to carry the risk of migrating before surgery.2 These studies have demonstrated that guidewire migration can cause surgery to be inaccurate, leaving behind cancerous tissue after the first surgery in 20-50% of cases.2 Marking and removing the tumor with a Magseed® marker has been shown to reduce these figures significantly to between 6.5% and 10%.3,4,5

    “We are proud to bring the most innovative and effective treatments to our patients right here in Montgomery County'' said Thomas J. Senker, FACHE, president of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. “The addition of the Magseed marking technology advances our goal to provide the most comprehensive, compassionate and high-quality breast cancer care.”

    About MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and MedStar Health
    MedStar Montgomery Medical Center is a not-for-profit, acute care community hospital serving Montgomery County, Maryland. For 100 years, MedStar Montgomery has served as a medical care provider and community health resource offering high-quality, personalized care. MedStar Montgomery provides a broad range of healthcare specialties, advanced technologies, and treatments not traditionally found at community hospitals—including cutting-edge care in obstetrics, orthopedics, breast health, and oncology. MedStar Health is the region's largest non-profit and most trusted integrated healthcare delivery system, giving patients access to the latest in modern medicine and medical technology within a community hospital setting.

    About Endomag

    Endomag is a global technology company that believes everyone deserves a better standard of cancer care. Many of the world’s leading physicians and hospitals use the company’s technologies to help women with breast cancer avoid surgery when it isn’t needed, and experience better outcomes when it is.

    Originally founded in 2007 by professors at University College London (UCL) and the University of Houston, Endomag harnesses the power of magnetics to enable a better standard of cancer care.

    The heart of the company’s product platform is the Sentimag® localization system. The Sentimag® system features a probe which works like a metal detector, and when placed near the skin’s surface is used to detect Endomag’s magnetic seed (Magseed®) or liquid tracer (Magtrace®), for tissue localization and sentinel node biopsy procedures. Today, the Sentimag® system has been used in over 130,000 procedures worldwide.

    Endomag is a global company headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with an office in Austin, Texas. To date, the company has helped tens of thousands of women around the world access more precise and less invasive breast cancer care. To learn more visit: https://www.endomag.com/

    References

    Harvey, JR, et al (2018). Safety and Feasibility of Breast Lesion Localization Using Magnetic Seeds (Magseed): a Multi-Centre, open-label cohort study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 169(3):531-536.

    Jeevan, R. et al (2012). Reoperation Rates After Breast Conserving Surgery for Breast Cancer Among Women in England: Retrospective Study of Hospital Episode Statistics. BMJ. [online] 345(Jul12 2),pp.e4505-e4505.

    3  Singh 2019 – Effectiveness and Safety of Magseed-localization for Excision of Breast Lesions. MD Anderson Cancer Center. SSO 2019, San Diego.

    4  Miller 2019 – Hospital system rollout and initial experience with stainless steel magnetized seeds for breast and lymph node localization. University Hospitals, Cleveland. ASBrS 2019, Dallas.

    5  Alvarado 2019 – Lesion localization and targeted axillary dissection with one platform. German Senology Congress 2019, Berlin.

    ####

  • October 22, 2021

    Researchers target social determinants of health to decrease racial disparities in cancer outcomes in Washington, D.C.,

    COLUMBIA, Md. — MedStar Health is leading a $5 million cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at improving quality of life for recent cancer patients in Washington, D.C., The project aims to make advances by addressing social needs that disproportionally affect minority communities. Previous research shows that social factors like food insecurity, housing instability, transportation access, financial needs, and racial bias drive up to 80 percent of patient outcomes.

    Over the next five years, the study will focus on breast and prostate cancer patients finishing treatment at three Washington, D.C.,-based cancer clinics, using strategies to reduce health inequities and improve their outcomes. These strategies include screening patients for social needs ahead of graduation from treatment, engaging with community health workers to connect patients directly to local resources, and holding anti-discrimination training sessions for staff and clinicians.

    Researchers hope the project will eventually lead to a permanent and sustainable process for addressing social determinants of health and enhancing cancer care for minoritized communities.

    Hannah Arem, Ph.D., is the study’s corresponding principal investigator.

    “Despite improvements in cancer outcomes over time, significant disparities remain between Black and white cancer survivors,” said Arem, scientific director at MedStar Health Research Institute. “We believe the results of this research will play a major role in improving the survivorship of D.C. cancer patients over time as we better understand the burden of social needs in our community and how to support cancer survivors in addressing those needs.”

    “Once cancer patients finish active treatment, the transition to survivorship can have its own challenges,” said Christopher Gallagher, MD, co-investigator on the study and hematologist oncologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “While new treatments and screenings lead to better outcomes, so does access to long-term social services. This study aims to connect patients to the right community resources at the right time to build a successful transition.”

    MedStar Health is partnering with co-principal investigator Mandi Pratt-Chapman, Ph.D., of George Washington University Cancer Center in addition to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center and Howard University.

    “I am most excited about identifying and changing structural biases across three cancer care centers in the nation’s capital,” said Pratt-Chapman. “Through our anti-racism task forces, we hope to help reverse entrenched and growing disparities experienced by communities historically excluded from the healthcare system. We will work to resolve root causes of inequity while providing immediate relief to patients and families with significant social needs.”

    The research also builds on MedStar Health’s continued investment into community health, which includes the utilization of the Aunt Bertha Social Care Services Platform. In August, MedStar announced a new software integration that embeds the social needs screening tool directly into patient Electronic Health Records (EHRs). MedStar Health patients enrolled in this study will take advantage of the Aunt Bertha platform to quickly connect with thousands of nearby food banks, rent assistance programs, diaper banks, and more.

    “What’s so exciting about the community health and Aunt Bertha collaboration is that it enables us to identify community resources more easily for our clients and patients,” said Diana Quinn, senior director of Community Health for MedStar Health.  “This one-stop shopping approach within the electronic health record is designed such that we simply input a zip code, and it provides us with the names of the resources available in that area. This project will help us better understand which resources are needed for cancer patients specifically.”

    The study was awarded at the end of Sept. 2021 and will continue through Sept. 2026.

  • May 22, 2019

    WASHINGTON, D.C., – Physicians and hospital staff are celebrating the first 100 patients treated at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Proton Therapy Center, the first and only center of its kind in the Washington D.C., metropolitan area. Proton therapy is the latest cancer-fighting technology designed to shrink some previously untreatable tumors.

    MedStar Georgetown providers with Proton therapy some patientsThe proton therapy system used by radiation oncologists at MedStar Georgetown is the most advanced cancer treatment technology currently available. Using pencil beam scanning (PBS) and HYPERSCAN™ technology, physicians can precisely target tumors anywhere in the body with minimal exposure to healthy tissues. This is especially beneficial for younger patients, who have a higher likelihood of living many years after their cancer has been cured.

    “With conventional radiation, when we aim at a target, there’s full dose radiation in front of the target and full dose radiation beyond the target. With the protons, they can stop in the center of the tumor,” says Brian Collins, MD, clinical director of the Proton Therapy Center.

    “There are certain types of cancer where you have to deliver a very high dose of radiation right next to a critical structure like the spinal cord or brainstem,” says Radiation Oncologist Sonali Rudra, MD, “So, for some patients, proton therapy might be their only radiation treatment option.”

    MedStar Georgtown's 100th Proton Therapy PatientThe center’s 100th patient, Kathleen Norris of Lexington Park, Maryland, began receiving proton therapy treatments in April for her inoperable lung cancer. Proton therapy helps Norris’ care team avoid targeting critical nearby organs, like the heart, that may be damaged by conventional x-ray radiation. Norris says she’s thankful for the opportunity to fight her cancer battle with cutting-edge tools never-before available in her area.

    “This proton is so advanced.  It was able to hit my cancer without damaging my other tissues and it could avoid my heart.  I’m so glad.  The tumor has already shrunk by forty percent,” Norris said. “I’ve done really well. I’ve been very lucky.”

    In March 2018, Martha Ramos, a mother of two from Germantown, Maryland, became the first patient treated by doctors at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Proton Therapy Center. Before treatment, Ramos underwent multiple operations to remove a non-cancerous recurring brain tumor. Some cells deep in the brain could not be removed in surgery. Proton therapy eradicated those remaining cells and preserved her quality of life.

    “I want to have more time to be a mom to my children. I want to be very healthy so I can be there for them and help them in life,” Ramos said after treatment. “I am very, very grateful that my medical team at MedStar Georgetown told me about proton therapy. I now look forward to a long and happy life.”

    Since proton therapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1988, over 75,000 patients have been treated at only about 30 centers across the United States. Now, patients have access to this state-of-the-art technology in Washington D.C.,

  • May 07, 2019
    MedStar Washington Hospital Center Patients Will Benefit from Increased Access to the Nation’s Leading Experts and Research
  • April 12, 2019

    For healthcare industry executive Sean Hawkins, prostate cancer runs in the family. After his own diagnosis last year, the then 49-year-old already knew the potential challenges of treatment -- including losing control of his bladder. However, a breakthrough method of prostate surgery known as Retzius-sparing is now eliminating continence issues for many men treated at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    MedStar Georgetown Patient Sean Hawkins“You go through all sorts of mental gymnastics when you’re confronted with cancer,” he says. “My main concern was the ability to get back to normal.”

    After consulting with MedStar Georgetown urological surgeon Keith Kowalczyk, MD, Hawkins learned that he was a candidate for radical prostatectomy – or removal of his entire prostate. Despite the possibility of temporary (and sometimes permanent) continence issues, Hawkins was willing to make difficult sacrifices for another chance at a cancer-free life.

    “The first thing people do is go to the store and buy the 300-count diapers,” he says. “I had diapers under my desk and meetings were spaced out to allow for bathroom breaks. I built in contingencies to anticipate a lot more frequency. I was also sort of budgeting coffee and fluid intake.”

    After a successful surgery, Hawkins returned to work only 2 weeks later. He sat through his first round of meetings without a continence problem.

    “I didn’t really have any major issues. I kept waiting and wearing the diapers and pads as a precaution. I worried about getting up or sneezing,” he says. “I was tempted to text Dr. Kowalczyk and ask if there was something going on, because I wasn’t having the control problems I anticipated. It was startling for sure.”

    During his prostatectomy, Hawkins was one of the first patients to undergo the new Retzius-sparing approach; a more technically advanced, robotically-assisted technique. Kowalczyk, who specializes in robotic surgery, learned the approach from urological surgeons in Italy. He says Retizus-sparing removes the prostate by way of an alternate route, preserving attachments to the bladder and urethra that may play a key role in continence preservation. He is part of a small group of urological surgeons in the United States now performing the procedure on a regular basis.

    “The big advantage is that these patients become continent much earlier, sometimes immediately” says Dr. Kowalczyk. “Patients getting the standard approach do well -- but it tends to be a much slower process, sometimes up to a year, in regaining their continence.  This is likely due to the need to cut through crucial suspension ligaments that seem to be important in maintaining continence.”

    Kowalczyk says traditionally, prostatectomy patients can wait from 6 months up to a year to regain continence, if it comes back at all. In patients who have undergone the Retzius-sparing surgery at MedStar Georgetown, 96% of patients regained adequate urinary continence after only 6 weeks, with only 23% wearing one “safety” pad just for reassurance even if not needed.

    “I can really confidently tell my patients now that this should not be a problem,” Kowalczyk says. “They’ve just been doing astonishingly well.”

    For some patients, like Hawkins, incontinence is never a problem at all. Aside from a healing incision scar, he reports no other side effects or complaints from the surgery. Considering all possible outcomes, Hawkins says his journey from the prostate cancer diagnosis to recovery has been a smooth one.

    “I’m very fortunate and thankful. From the minute I walked into the hospital to the minute I was wheeled out, I couldn’t have asked for faster, better treatment. To be able to say that out loud in an affirmative manner is -very important to me.”

    Watch the video below as Dr. Kowalczyk answers commonly asked question about prostate cancer and the use of robotic surgery to treat prostate cancer. 

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