WHEELING - Cancer. It is the diagnosis no one wants to hear, but treatment for the most common adult forms of the disease is available in the Ohio Valley.
No local hospital offers pediatric cancer treatment. Children instead are referred to hospitals in larger cities, such as Columbus, Pittsburgh or Morgantown.
In Wheeling, Ohio Valley Medical Center's cancer center focuses on treating the most common types of cancer, but the hospital in the past two years has started to treat patients with gynecological cancers, such as ovarian and uterine, via Dr. Jan Seski, a gynecologic oncologist, who is based at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
DR. JONDAVID POLLOCK
"Very few hospitals have the luxury of a gynecologic oncologist," said OVMC's Dr. Sushil Mehrotra, who is board certified in internal medicine, oncology and hospice and palliative care.
"At OVMC we treat all the common cancers ... including all adult cancers and leukemia. We do not treat pediatric cancers," Mehrotra added, noting children with cancer are treated in larger cities' hospitals.
He noted the cancer center's staff provides "incredibly passionate care" for its patients.
Do our local hospitals offer adequate cancer care?
Yes. With the exception of pediatric cancer treatment, the disease can be treated at most of the area's hospitals. Wheeling Hospital is accredited as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program while Ohio Valley Medical Center is accredited as a Community Hospital Cancer Program.
"At OVMC, we believe the diagnosis of cancer should not abolish hope or weaken the state or disturb peace of life," Mehrotra said.
OVMC's cancer doctors are "board certified attendings," meaning they are based at the hospital and are on-call around the clock. The hospital also has private rooms, which is helpful during recovery, he said.
"Our staff is highly trained and we have state-of-the-art treatment and technology," Mehrotra said. "Each member of the team treats every cancer patient as if it's his or her loved one."
In 2010, the cancer center was nationally recognized and it received a three-year accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
"It's a fully accredited Community Hospital Cancer Program with commendation - that's the highest given to cancer programs from the American College of Surgeons," Mehrotra noted.
According to the ACOS, Community Hospital Cancer Programs must record between 100 and 649 "newly diagnosed cancer cases each year and provide a full range of diagnostic and treatment services, but referral for a portion of treatment is common. The members of the medical staff are board certified in the major medical specialties. Facilities may participate in clinical research. Participation in the training of resident physicians is optional."
"We provide the standard care that a patient would get anywhere," said Dr. G.N. Reddy, a board certified radiation oncologist. "That's what matters."
At Wheeling Hospital, the Schiffler Cancer Center treats all adult cancers. It does not treat pediatric cancers, but Dr. Jondavid Pollock, a board certified radiation oncologist, follows up with children who have received treatment elsewhere.
Wheeling Hospital is accredited as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program. It has received a commendation from American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
According to the ACOS, to be a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program, a facility must record 650 or more "newly diagnosed cancer cases each year and provide a full range of diagnostic and treatment services that are available on site or by referral. The members of the medical staff are board certified in the major medical specialties, including oncology where available. Participation in clinical research is required. Participation in the training of resident physicians is optional."
Wheeling Hospital participates in clinical cancer research.
"Wheeling Hospital could not have earned the comprehensive cancer program accreditation without its nearly 100-member dedicated and caring team of health care professionals. While the hospital provides modern technologies, treatments research and clinical trials, it is the program's people that make the difference. Each of them are dedicated to their patients and the fight against cancer," Pollock said.
"Wheeling Hospital's cancer care program is the only local one that regularly conducts multidisciplinary tumor boards and conferences to address certain disease to include genitourinary cancers (kidney, urinary bladder, prostate, testicle, urethra, ureter), brain and head and neck. These boards meet weekly and monthly to establish the most appropriate course of action in the management of these cancers. The hospital's program is the only one in the area conducting clinical cancer care research. As an active member of several National Cancer Institute-designated cooperative groups, Wheeling Hospital's cancer program offers cutting-edge clinical trials to its patients with all types of cancer," he said.
The Commission on Cancer also has described Wheeling Hospital's cancer care program as "impeccable," he noted.
"Wheeling Hospital's comprehensive cancer program was one of only 66 nationally to earn the Commission on Cancer's Outstanding Achievement Award," Pollock added.
Wheeling Hospital also boasts that Dr. Gregory Merrick, a board certified radiation oncologist, is a leader in prostate brachytherapy and is an American Brachytherapy Society board member and past president. Brachytherapy is the surgical placement of radioactive rods, also known as "seeds," into or beside a person's cancerous tumor to kill that tumor. Merrick uses brachytherapy for treatment of urologic cancers such as prostate cancer.
"Some people believe they must go to a larger city and hospital to receive the best in cancer care. Dr. Merrick could be practicing anywhere, but as a Wheeling native he decided this is where he wanted to be," said Ronald Violi, chief executive officer of Wheeling Hospital. "The fact that so many people from throughout the nation and world seek him out for treatment speaks for itself."
The hospital also offers some treatments unique in the Wheeling area: vaccine therapies for melanoma and lung cancer, Interleukin-2 therapy for advanced melanomas, and several types of radiotherapies.