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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Medical Treatments

Cancer can require medical treatments, surgical treatments or a combination of both. Medical treatments include chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as newer therapy options such as interventional radiology and immunotherapy.

Your cancer specialist, in conjunction with the multidisciplinary team (MDT), will determine the most effective treatment plan for you and your cancer. This may include some of the medical treatment options listed below.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy Day InfusionChemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. While surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, chemotherapy can work throughout the whole body, meaning it can kill cancer cells that have spread (metastasised) to parts of the body distant from the original (primary) tumour.

If possible, chemotherapy may be used to cure cancer, meaning that the cancer is destroyed – it goes away and does not come back. Unfortunately, there can be no guarantees, and though cure may be the goal, it does not always work out that way. It often takes many years to know if a person’s cancer is really cured. If cure is not possible, the goal may be to control the disease by shrinking tumours and/or stopping the cancer from growing and spreading. This can help patients feel better and live longer. Chemotherapy can also be used to ease the symptoms caused by cancer.

The San's Poon Day Infusion Centre has been purpose-designed to maximise patient comfort during chemotherapy treatment administered by our specialised oncology nurses. The Centre also includes an oncology pharmacy allowing pharmacists to be readily available while chemotherapy infusions are given.

Oncology pharmacists specialise in the drugs that are used to treat cancers. Their training and expert knowledge of medications means they play an important role in educating other health professionals and particularly patients, and caregivers, who find themselves in an unexpected and often confronting situation. Each patient is visited, in their chair, at each of their treatments. By taking medication histories and monitoring responses to cancer treatment, pharmacists are an integral part of the patient care team, along with specialists and nurses. The pharmacists are there to listen, share the journey and lighten the load. Oncology pharmacists are also available to answer any concerns or questions while the patient is at home.

Despite cancer treatments becoming more targeted and personalised, side effects still occur. The pharmacists are key resources in providing supportive care to manage and relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pain, constipation and diarrhoea. Medications and personalised information and advice are given as required, including non-drug strategies, to help each patient complete their treatment regime. Assistance and dispensed medication are also provided for anticoagulation, infections and many other conditions related to the diagnosis.

The treatment of cancer is an expanding field of research and oncology pharmacists contribute to the many multicentre clinical trials that are conducted at Sydney Adventist Hospital. This includes new compounds that are being tested for effectiveness, and other studies comparing new and existing treatments. Oncology pharmacists liaise extensively with drug companies to enable newer drugs, not yet on PBS, to be made available to patients who need them. This includes arranging importation of drug from overseas if that is required.

Day Infusion Paxman Cooling machineThe San has also recently invested in two Paxman Scalp Cooling machines which give cancer patients a better chance of retaining their hair despite chemotherapy. For many, it is the loss of their hair that defines them as a cancer patient and this technology can drastically reduce patient stress associated with treatment. San patients in the Poon Day Infusion Centre wear a special cap which is attached to the machine and cools the scalp to 17 degrees prior to, during and after their infusions. Patients are evaluated to determine those with the best chance of retaining their hair, due to factors including chemotherapy type and hair thickness and condition. The cooling system may not work for everyone, but research has shown reduced hair loss in a significant number of patients.


Radiation Therapy

Radiation Oncology Centres, Sydney Adventist HospitalRadiation therapy uses special equipment to send high doses of radiation at the cancer cells with the intent to shrink tumours and kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be delivered externally from a machine outside the body, and/or internally from radiation sources put inside the body. Some people get both. 

External beam radiation uses a machine to send high-energy beams from outside the body to the tumour and some of the area around the tumour. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive source called an implant, which might look like a wire, pellet or seed, put very near or right inside the tumour. 

Radiation Oncology Centres (ROC) conduct these and other therapies on-site at the San, and are located on Level 2 of the Clark Tower near the Integrated Cancer Centre reception.


Interventional Radiology

Interventional Radiology uses image-guidance through x-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI and fluoroscopy to perform minimally invasive procedures to treat cancer. Our doctors use tools such as catheters and needles to treat conditions that would have required surgery in the past, and to directly target cancer treatment procedures. 

Dr Eisen Liang and his team from Sydney Interventional Radiology are located in San Clinic, making access to these treatments easy.


Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses your body's own immune system to help fight cancer. Some forms of immunotherapy boost the body’s immune system in a very general way, while others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically. Immunotherapy works better for some types of cancer than for others. It may be used as single agent therapy for some cancers, but for others it seems to work better when used with other types of treatment.


Clinical Trials

Clinical trials and research have been integral in improving the outcomes for patients with cancer. The purpose of the San Clinical Trials Unit is to provide all oncology patients treated at Sydney Adventist Hospital access to the latest and most innovative therapies. We offer the opportunity to participate in the most current treatment options available in the field of medical oncology. The San Clinical Trials unit contributes to clinical trials around the world, playing our part in improving cancer outcomes for current and future generations. The trials unit is involved in this clinical research to evaluate the impact of new treatment options to improve the outcomes for cancer patients. Treatments are either delivered in the Poon Day Infusion Centre or as outpatient treatments. 

We offer clinical trial participation in multi centre, national and international clinical trials run by Pharmaceutical Companies and National collaborative groups such as Australasian Gastro Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG), the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate Cancer Trials Group (ANZUP), the ANZ Gynaecology / Oncology Group (ANZGOG), and the ANZ Breast Cancer Trials Group (ANZBCTG).

See more information regarding our current Clinical Trials.

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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services