New advances in surgical techniques mean a growing number of cancer patients can leave the hospital with good outcomes, according to research from the American Cancer Society.
A recommendation of surgery can inspire panic in some patients, but Pragatheeshwar Thirunavukarasu, MD, also known as Dr. Prag, is devoted to delivering the latest options to his patients with a solid dose of hope.
As a surgeon who specializes in cancer, Dr. Prag told 2 Works for You anchor Karen Larsen, the first thing he wants patients who need surgery to know is they should not panic.
"To be in a situation where surgery is still an option is better than being told that surgery is no longer an option," said Pragatheeshwar Thirunavukarasu, MD, surgical oncologist. "Surgery can just mean hope."
Dr. Prag works at Cancer Treatment Centers of America - Southwestern Regional Medical Center in Tulsa. He chooses to operate based on three primary considerations: for "oncological benefit" to remove cancer to give patients longer, better lives; "palliative benefit" to ease the unrelenting pain or to avert imminent life-threatening conditions.
He wants patients to understand the reason for surgery and what benefits they can expect.
"It is important to know the other non-surgical options that may be available," said Dr. Prag. "Or ask questions like, 'What if the surgery is not done?'"
CTCA clinicians target advanced cancer with "organ-directed therapies" or "regional therapies." According to a CTCA news release, "regional therapies are a more targeted treatment approach for patients and allow doctors to deliver high doses of chemotherapy or radiation directly to the tumor, without exposing the rest of the body to harmful levels of toxicity." The goal is to manage a patient's disease so that doctors are treating primarily the place in the body that is most vulnerable to cancer. "Regional therapies first emerged in the 1950s, after surgeons recognized the need for a safer alternative when surgery would either be highly invasive or potentially harmful to patients or in cases where cancer couldn't be surgically removed."
Regional therapies also work to preserve the body's vital organs. Patients whose tumors a found in the abdomen, lungs, and limbs may be candidates for regional therapy as well as those with cancer that has spread to the liver, which is a common site for metastatic disease. In the case of liver cancer, the oncologist works to kill the tumor while saving as much of the healthy portions of the liver as possible. Dr. Prag advises not all patients are candidates for these complicated procedures.
"They are highly complex and need to be done in highly selected patients and the clinicians who are performing these should have the necessary training and expertise," Dr. Prag added. "And it's better to have these procedures done in a center that routinely does them."
Once diagnosed, and before any treatment begins, he prescribes developing a relationship with your surgeon and the entire team of doctors focused on your care. As a surgeon devoted to preserving quality and quantity of life in his patients, Dr. Prag also encourages patients and caregivers to keep a positive outlook and have faith.
"The goal in my career is not to treat cancer, it's to treat the patient who has cancer," he said. "Because if you treat cancer, you may win or lose," he said. "But if you treat the patient you will almost always win."
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