Published in the September-October 2014 issue of MyLIFE magazine
Mesa, Arizona, mom of three and devoted wife Wendi Tufts was told she had breast cancer in February of 2014. “My family is the number one reason I want to be here and win the fight against cancer,” she said.
“Hearing those three words, ‘you have cancer,’ changes your life. You aren’t quite sure what to do next, where to turn, who to call or how to tell your children. So you cry, and you cry more. And then you take a deep breath and gear up for the fight of your life.”
That fight ultimately brought Wendi and her family to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Western Regional Medical Center (Western) in Goodyear, Arizona.
“I was aware of the reputation CTCA has for world-class physicians and cutting-edge treatment options, but I didn’t fully understand its commitment to individualized medicine—that promise to treat me like a person with a husband and children, not just another patient or another number,” Tufts said.
CTCA integrates leading technologies in the areas of diagnostic imaging, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and genomic tumor testing to aggressively treat cancer, while at the same time supporting patients with nutritional therapy, naturopathic medicine, rehabilitation services, mind-body medicine, spiritual support and more. Receiving these integrative oncology services helps patients stay strong, boost their immune system, combat treatment side-effects and maintain quality of life.
“I get to focus on healing while the physicians focus on treating the disease with the latest treatment options and cutting-edge tools,” Tufts added.
One of these tools is the MarginProbe. CTCA at Western became the first hospital in Arizona to utilize it, according to Dr. Robert Wascher, surgical oncologist and CTCA Western’s chief of surgery, who brought this new technology into the operating room. Wendi was the first Arizona patient to benefit from this new tool.
The MarginProbe has the potential to significantly improve surgery for breast cancer,” Dr. Wascher noted.
Research has shown that cancer cells have a distinctive electromagnetic signature, which is different from that of healthy cells. The MarginProbe can often identify microscopic amounts of cancer on the edges of the breast tissue removed during breast cancer surgery, allowing the surgeon to remove additional tissue at that time, and potentially sparing the patient a second surgery.
Dr. Wascher added, “Previously, the only option available for testing the edges of breast tissue removed by lumpectomy was to send that tissue to a pathology lab, which can require several days before the final results become available. The MarginProbe offers surgeons and their patients a real-time solution for assessing the ‘margin status’ of lumpectomy specimens within the operating room, potentially eliminating the need for additional surgery for many patients, including Wendi.”
“Hearing ‘we got it all the first time’ significantly helped with my stress and anxiety,” Tufts said. “It’s incredibly comforting knowing that CTCA—and Dr. Wascher—pioneered these advancements in technology.”
Additionally, Western has developed a cutting-edge immunotherapy program, led by Dr. Walter Quan, Jr., chief of medical oncology, and a clinical trials program led by Dr. Glen Weiss, director of clinical research. Dr. Quan’s world-renowned outpatient interleukin-2 program elevates Western’s level of clinical excellence because Western is one of the only hospitals in the nation to offer this innovative treatment to patients fighting melanoma and kidney cancer. Dr. Weiss leads the hospital’s clinical research program, which has resulted in FDA approval of two new drugs for treatment of specific cancers. He is also leading the launch of 12 additional industry-sponsored Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, adding to the more than 40 trials already open at Western. These trials will provide new treatment options for multiple cancer types, including pancreatic, lung, prostate, colorectal, bladder, breast, kidney, leukemia, melanoma and ovarian cancers.
“CTCA must be a leader in developing innovative and personalized cancer treatment options and the use of genomic medicine to guide treatment,” said Matt McGuire, president and CEO of CTCA Western. “I expect that because of these innovations, in 10 years, the cancer diagnosis won’t be nearly as fearful as it is today. Cancer patients will have more hope than ever before.”
That commitment has already changed Wendi’s life. “My husband takes care of me at home. CTCA takes care of me when I’m in treatment. And because of that, I truly feel like there’s hope for me to be cancer-free.”