You walk in and help yourself to a drink at the gourmet coffee bar, and then you sit and relax in front of a big screen television and a fireplace as you sip your beverage. The decor is casual and masculine: wood and green tones with bamboo floors and cozy leather furniture. It's not what most people expect to find at a cancer treatment center. This is the Northeast Indiana Urology (NEIU) Prostate Cancer Center in Dupont Medical Park. Having just opened its doors in January, not only is the building brand new, the concept is, as well. It's a facility just for men with prostate cancer.
"It's built for men - it's all about men," says urologist Dr. David Pollifrone of Northeast Indiana Urology PC. "It's where a guy would want to sit with his friends. It's comfortable."
Dr. Pollifrone was one of several medical professionals who had a vision for NEIU years ago and is pleased to finally see it come to fruition.
"When you receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, it's personal," explains Dr. Christopher Steidle, a urologist at Northeast Indiana Urology PC. "And so today, for example, you go to a big facility with pink ribbons and it's not really for you. This is the first ever (facility) in this part of the state dedicated to men's health and prostate cancer. It's built around male preferences, and it's got the newest cancer fighting equipment in the area - the best out there."
That includes IMRT/IGRT, or intensity modulated radiation therapy with daily image guidance. IMRT is a state-of-the-art technology that allows doctors to tailor each treatment to an individual patient. IGRT is used in conjunction with IMRT to guarantee that the radiation is delivered to exactly where it is intended with extreme precision.
"When you don't have that level of sophistication, as is the case with older units that are still used in some practices today, you'll have more complications like radiation burns to the rectum and other structures near the prostate," explains Dr. Steidle.
The facility is not exclusively for patients of Northeast Indiana Urology PC. Any man who is a potential candidate for prostate cancer treatments may inquire and receive treatment at this facility.
"It's basically an extension of our office, which allows the urologist to be directly involved in the patient's care, which is something that's never happened before," says Dr. Steidle.
A urologist is a specialist who is an expert at treating both benign and malignant conditions of the prostate. Typically, a urologist will see patients who have elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests, as well as prostate symptoms and abnormalities found on a digital rectal examination, and will make the diagnosis of prostate cancer and formulate the appropriate treatment options for the cancer based on age and a variety of factors.
Northeast Indiana Urology is proud to offer all modalities for prostate cancer treatment, including the newest robotic prostatectomy and cryo-surgical ablation. It participates in a number of cutting-edge national research trials, which are available to its patients, as well. Additionally, Northeast Indiana Urology has been a pioneer in the development of the newest hormonal therapy techniques for prostate cancer and has access to the latest treatments. The urologist and radiation oncologist at the prostate cancer center directs this therapy. Dr. Steidle says it just makes sense for a urologist and his colleagues to be directly involved with the patient's care while at NEIU and communicate with the facility's radiation oncologist, Dr. Joseph Schneider.
Dr. Schneider is no stranger to the world of physics. Before attending medical school, he did extensive work in engineering and physics in the aerospace industry and then eventually completed postdoctoral residency training at Harvard Medical School in radiation therapy. He's a board certified radiation oncologist who practiced in Huntsville, Alabama, for 21 years before retiring in the fall of 2007. Retirement simply wasn't for him.
"I missed patient care," Dr. Schneider says, "because I enjoy interacting with patients."
Besides his impressive background and experience, Dr. Schneider brings another element to the table: both he and his wife are cancer survivors. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer eight years ago and his wife had breast cancer. He wanted to be a part of NEIU because of the unique care and compassion provided to patients experiencing the same disease.
"I think one of the most important features is that the patient is given a sense that their care is coordinated," he says, explaining that cancer patients typically are sent from one doctor to another for various tests and procedures and often wonder whether any of these doctors are communicating with each other.
"Here, under one roof, the flow is seamless. The referral is made and I think the patient feels like nothing is going to be dropped," he says.
The staff at NEIU Prostate Cancer Center is small. Besides Dr. Schneider, there is a clinical nurse, medical physicist, two radiation therapists and a medical dosimetrist who works closely with Dr. Schneider to develop a treatment plan for each patient.
Scott Campbell is the clinical manager and medical dosimetrist at NEIU Prostate Cancer Center.
"If you had to pick the best cancer patient to work with, it would be the prostate cancer patient because in the early stages that cancer gives the patient many different treatment options and a high potential for cure," he says.
If radiation is chosen, Campbell uses a sophisticated, computerized treatment planning system that allows him to map out the proper doses of radiation.
"Dr. Schneider outlines the target area for me and then I map out all of the critical structures around the target area - things that we don't want to give too much of a dose to like the bladder, the rectum and any normal tissues. We can calculate and evaluate the doses to all of those structures in the computer, so we're ensuring the patient will get the perfect treatment even before we give that first dose of radiation," Campbell says.
A typical course of radiation lasts seven to nine weeks, with the patient coming in every day, Monday through Friday. The time commitment is actually minimal. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the patient to get in and out. There is no pain or discomfort and patients can resume their normal activities after the treatments.
"Our patients almost never miss a day of work," adds Dr. Steidle.
Those who developed the program have numerous years of experience in radiation oncology. They handpicked each member of the staff at NEIU Prostate Cancer Center. And because it's a smaller facility, no patient ever feels like he's just a number.
"We're not on an assembly line here," says Campbell. "That's one reason why we all decided to come to work here because we wanted a more patient-friendly atmosphere. We want to spend time with our patients and listen to their concerns."
Campbell points out that patient surveys have been excellent and many men come back after their treatments are complete just to say "hi" to the friends they made and tell them how much they appreciate the quality care they received.
"We've had nothing but exceptional comments about the staff here. We know we're doing things the right way," he says.
Northeast Indiana Urology PC
Address: 2512 East Dupont Road, Suite 100 Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Telephone: (260 436-6667, (888)436-1769
Number of employees: 73
Years in business: 79
Services: All related up-to-date urological services, CT, Hormonal Therapy, Incontinence, Infertility, Laboratory Services, Lithotripsy and other Surgical Services, Men's Health, Prostate Cancer, Research, Robotics, Sexual Dysfunction, Urodynamics, Vasectomy
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