Matthias Weiss, MD Vijay Chaudhary, MD
Dr. Matthias Weiss, and Dr. Vijay Chaudhary, both oncology and hematology physicians with ThedaCare Medical Oncology, are on a mission to create a regional cancer program that not only helps patients through their cancer journey, it becomes a destination for healing the whole family.
When Dr. Chaudhary moved to the area in late summer from North Dakota, he was intrigued with the vision that Dr.Weiss and ThedaCare leadership had for a new comprehensive approach to cancer care. He has devoted his career to helping people navigate the unchartered maze that patients sometimes find themselves in when they receive a cancer diagnosis, and wanted to be part of bringing a new patient-centered, collaborative approach to cancer care to the Fox Valley.
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 40% of all men and women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer at some point during their lifetime, so the need is great. So many patients get lost in the systems, bouncing from specialist to specialist, often having unnecessary tests and losing precious time to begin treatment. Dr. Chaudhary points out that for patients with colon cancer, for every month of delay in initiation of chemotherapy; there is a 14% decrease in overall survival, so the stakes are high to get to quicker management including diagnosis. But more than that, having someone help you through the process, from the time of suspected diagnosis through treatment and beyond, can make a world of difference to a family.
Dr. Weiss said that time is so valuable, especially when you’re facing a life-threatening disease like cancer. Our goal is to make it easy for our patients to maintain family life and daily routines while going through their treatments, instead of wasting time shuffling from specialist to specialist.
Beyond that, this new approach to collaborative care will also include early introduction to palliative care. Dr. Chaudhary developed a similar program in Bismarck, aimed at helping people manage symptoms and extending survival with improved quality of life. Introducing palliative care early reduces additional stress and anxiety that patients and their families endure through treatment and survivorship. Patients will now have a personal quarterback for symptom management.
Dr. Weiss said that true patient-centered cancer care means treating the whole person – emotionally, physically and practically. It is about communication and coordination from the health care team and empowerment of the patient, family and caregivers. Although the new Regional Cancer Center won’t be completed until spring of 2016, the new program launched Oct. 1, and a new team is in place to transform the old, fragmented care model to one that is better for both body and soul.