Primary care doctors, specialists gather at CHI Memorial oncology symposium

Primary care doctors, specialists gather at CHI Memorial oncology symposium

November 21st, 2017 by Elizabeth Fite in Local Regional News

Keeping primary care providers up to speed is important as cancer research develops — that was the theme of the Southeast Regional Oncology Symposium presented Saturday by CHI Memorial.

"The amount of information has significantly increased, so it's really hard for one individual to know it all," said Dr. Rob Headrick, a thoracic surgeon at CHI Memorial. "Our goal is shedding light on all the new information that's occurring in the field of cancer with the local providers — helping them get all the latest and current information is really critical to solving the cancer problem in our community."

Headrick, who was one of 13 specialist presenters, spoke during a morning session that gave an overview of the modern era of lung cancer surgery, including improvements in treatment, identifying the stages of lung cancer best treated surgically and factors that make a patient a good surgical candidate.

He said it's exciting that technological advancements have greatly improved lung cancer prognoses and patients' treatment experience, but in order for more treatment to succeed, providers must be trained in early detection.

"It's not just lung cancer, but when you find it late, you're behind the eight ball, and it's really hard to catch up," he said.

In addition to screening tests, the importance of taking thorough family histories echoed throughout the day.

"Family history is pretty much integral to all that we do," said geneticist Catherine Marcum, whose talk focused on Lynch syndrome, a type of colorectal cancer. "Those families that have multiple cancers ... should stick out to you, and they need to be referred to genetics for evaluation."

Dr. Mark Womack, who specializes in medical oncology, discussed the need for specialists and generalists to collaborate after cancer treatment is complete in an afternoon session that discussed colon cancer survivorship.

"Primary care providers may be better equipped to address co-morbidities that are often neglected among cancer survivors, so we need to work together," he said.

Other topics that were covered included updates to gynecologic oncology, prostate cancer screening, organ preservation strategies in urologic oncology, advances in radiation oncology, melanoma and breast reconstruction.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.