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Cancer Care

Memorial Health uses the latest technology and skilled medical professionals to provide patients with high-quality and compassionate care. Using a team approach, our cancer care services include brachytherapy, chemotherapy, an infusion unit, radiation therapy, rehabilitation and surgery. We also address emotional and spiritual needs with a dedicated nurse navigator, support groups and pastoral care for both the patient and the patient’s support network.

Our Cancer Information Line provides resources on cancer, cancer prevention, screening and detection, as well as treatment options for many types of cancer. Call 217-788-4400 for individual questions or if you are interested in requesting community education for groups, schools, churches or businesses and employers.

Cancer Patient Navigators

Memorial Health cancer patient navigators guide patients with one-on-one support, ensuring seamless and coordinated care from time of diagnosis until your therapy is complete. The primary responsibility for a cancer patient navigator is to ease the burden on patients and family members by working to reduce or eliminate any barriers to cancer care and educate, encourage and provide emotional support. Navigators will: work with doctors and members of the healthcare team; provide patient with information and education; help patient communicate with their healthcare team; link patient to available community support services. They are also available for guidance through the medical journey, emotional support during stressful times and resource support for the following areas: treatment questions, further testing, insurance issues, transportation options, work or financial concerns. Call 217-757-7370 for additional information about Memorial Health cancer patient navigators.

Oncology Rehab Program

The Memorial Health Oncology Rehab Program offers the latest oncology rehab care and research-based protocols that have been proven to help cancer survivors optimally heal and function. All our services are potentially reimbursable by health insurance providers. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery can cause side effects that interfere with daily function and well-being. Survivors can deal with fatigue, weakness, insomnia, memory loss, fear, anxiety and depression. Survivorship is a distinct phase of cancer care, and our highly trained care team is ready to provide rehabilitation care with medical experts from the following areas: physicians, oncology-certified nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and swallowing therapists, registered dietitians and nutritionists and mental health professionals. Our program is open to everyone, no matter the prognosis, cancer stage or phase of recovery. Survivors can receive our assistance whether they are beginning treatment or experiencing late effects or unresolved issues from prior treatments. Our care team addresses the full spectrum of post-cancer care. Patient evaluation includes a review of health conditions and symptoms as well as diet, sleep issues, existing pain, endurance, strength, exercise habits and emotional outlook. Following evaluation, the healthcare team creates a personalized rehabilitation plan to increase strength and energy, alleviate or lessen pain, improve physical function, achieve emotional balance and boost the immune system.

Brachytherapy Therapies and Treatments

Brachytherapy means “short therapy,” indicating the radiation travels a short distance in the body and can better target tumors, protecting nearby tissues and organs. The Memorial Regional Cancer Center offers the following types:

  • Prostate brachytherapy: This common method of radiation therapy for prostate cancer uses tiny radioactive seeds about the size of a grain of rice that are permanently implanted into the prostate gland. They gradually lose their radioactivity and do not need to be removed.
  • Lung brachytherapy: The radiation oncologist works closely with the cardiopulmonary surgeon to coordinate this treatment, which can spare more normal lung tissue and minimize side effects. For lung/endobronchial brachytherapy, the treatment helps to shrink the tumor and relieve symptoms and is done under light anesthesia.
  • Cervical brachytherapy: This treatment is a critical component of radiation treatment for cervical cancer where a very small source of radiation is delivered directly into the tumor and surrounding tissue. This allows a high dose to be given where needed and reduces chance of injury or side effects to normal tissues.
  • Vaginal brachytherapy: This treatment may be used for patients with endometrial and uterine cancer who have had their uterus and cervix surgically removed through a hysterectomy. The upper part of the vagina (vaginal cuff) will be treated with brachytherapy.

Inpatient hospitalization

 Our affiliates at Springfield Memorial Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital offer oncology units that provide cancer care for patients with any type of cancer diagnosis. The unit's registered nurses, many of whom hold national certification as Oncology Certified Nurses (OCN) or Certified Medical Surgical Nurses (CMSRN), direct all patient care. The nurses receive special training to meet the unique physical and psychosocial needs of individuals diagnosed with cancer. They involve the patient and their family directly in planning the care and resources needed for cancer treatment. In addition to physicians and nurses, an interdisciplinary team on the unit, led by a patient care facilitator, participates in every patient's care. Patients and families work with professionals from Food and Nutrition, Oncology Rehab Services, Behavioral Health, Pharmacy, Pastoral Care and Social Services. An interdisciplinary plan of care assures that all team members involved in care coordinate to work toward customized patient goals.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses a variety of drugs as a treatment for cancer. The drug treatment may be administered as injections or intravenous infusions to a vein in the arm; however, patients may also be given drugs in the form of pills to swallow. Patients may be given chemotherapy in an outpatient setting, a physician’s office or at a hospital infusion center. Physicians who specialize in treating cancer with chemotherapy are called hematologists or medical oncologists and have special training and board certification in taking care of patients experiencing cancers of any type in the body organs and disorders of the blood and lymph glands.

Outpatient Infusion Services: Staffed by specially trained and certified oncology nurses, chemotherapy in the form of injections or infusions is given to patients in a comfortable setting under the watchful care of unit nurses.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (RT) is the use of high energy X-rays or electrons to kill cancer cells. Large, specialized X-ray machines called linear accelerators create the X-rays, which are invisible to the eye. During treatment, the machine's X-ray beam is directed to the area of the body involved with the cancer. Radiation may also be given in a form called brachytherapy, placing radioactive seeds or other materials in the affected area of the body. Radiation is released from these seeds or implants directly into the area of the cancer. Radiation therapy is used to treat cancers of the lung, breast, brain, prostate, cervix, uterus and other organs. Most radiation therapies are scheduled as five treatments a week, given Monday through Friday, for a period of six to eight weeks. A staff of highly trained professionals works with the patient during treatment. The doctor is a radiation oncologist, a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer. Treatments are given by licensed radiation therapists (RTTs) who follow a plan for treatment prescribed by the doctor. Specialists in radiation energy and how it works (physicists), radiation dosing (dosimetrists) and radiation nursing are other members of the treatment team. Using highly sophisticated technology, these professionals work together to make treatment comfortable and convenient.

  • External beam radiation is most common form of radiation therapy used to treat cancer. High-energy radiation beams are directed from outside of the body into the tumor using a linear accelerator. The painless treatments take about 15 minutes (although the first two range between 25 to 45 minutes). If the patient receives IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) treatments, plan to be in the department for one hour for the first two sessions. Subsequent daily treatments will take 30 minutes. Total number of treatments will depend upon the type of cancer, location and stage. The doctor will discuss this in more detail. Radiation treatments may cause hair loss, but only within the area being treated. Fatigue is also a side effect. The doctor will discuss other possible side effects and check in weekly for updates.
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is a non-surgical radiation therapy used to treat abnormalities and small tumors of the brain. SRS can deliver precisely targeted radiation in a high-dose treatment, which helps preserve healthy tissue. The specialized equipment focuses many tiny radiation beams on a target. Each beam has little effect on the tissue it passes through, but a targeted dose of radiation is delivered at the site where the beams intersect. This causes tumors to shrink and blood vessels to close off, eliminating the tumor’s blood supply. SRS is used to treat both cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. Clinical indications include treatment of arteriovenous malformations (AVM), acoustic neuromas, meningioma, pituitary adenoma, trigeminal neuralgia, brain metastasis and cancerous primary brain tumors. The precision of SRS means there is minimal damage to healthy surrounding tissues. In most cases, SRS has a lower risk of side effects than traditional surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is a precise form of radiation therapy delivered by using a linear accelerator (LINAC). The LINAC directs high-energy X-rays or photons to a very specific, targeted area of the body. SBRT allows for a higher dose of radiation to be delivered with fewer treatments or fractions (usually three to five treatments over a five- to ten-day time span) as compared to conventional radiation therapy. SBRT is not appropriate for treating all tumors. It is appropriate for single or solitary lesions within a specific organ (i.e., lung, spine and kidney). Size and location of the tumor may also be a deciding factor as to whether SBRT is the appropriate choice over conventional external beam radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist will determine the best treatment based on these factors.