Approximately 89,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer each year. The latest highly specialized approaches to surgery and treatment offer the best hope of recovery for many women.
A new gynecologic oncology partnership between St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings and the University of Colorado School of Medicine has increased access to some of the most advanced care options for SCL Health patients living in Montana and northern Wyoming.
“We’d been talking to SCL Health for some time and realized the synergy between our organizations,” said Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, the University of Colorado’s gynecologic oncology program director. “We are a genetics-based practice and part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a group of institutions that practice high-level cancer care at the forefront of research and development.”
The five main types of gynecologic cancer are uterine, ovarian, cervical, vaginal, and vulvar. To date, access to gynecologic oncology in Montana has been limited, often requiring doctors to send patients out of network and out of the region to see a specialist. Through this partnership, Dr. Guntupalli and his team will perform surgical treatment and provide patient care and treatment consultation.
Partnership benefits patients
“The partnership gives our patients the chance to be included in national studies and access innovative therapies and medications,” added Dr. Chimene Dahl, labor and delivery medical director at St. Vincent. “In the past, you’d have to go to a cancer center in a major city to find these options.”
“One of the things that’s so remarkable about our practice is our clinical trials portfolio,” Dr. Guntupalli said. “We have over 35 cutting-edge clinical trials for women with gynecologic cancer, using things like immunotherapy, vaccines, and novel agents. Additionally, the patient is getting not just one perspective but also ten different opinions with our practice because we discuss all of our cancer cases in our multidisciplinary tumor board through the University of Colorado.”
The most significant advantage for patients is receiving the most advanced treatment from nationally recognized gynecologic oncology specialists without having to travel and maintaining contact with their regular providers.
Personalized care and experience
“When a woman is diagnosed with one of these cancers, she wants to keep her relationship with her own gynecologist,” said Dr. Patrick Cobb, St. Vincent Healthcare Medical Director of Oncology Research. “We want to set up a system where our local gynecologists participate in the care of these women alongside these incredibly skilled university surgeons who can now perform operations in Billings.”
Current SCL Health patients can access gynecologic oncology services by talking to their doctor or OB/GYN, or by contacting St. Vincent at 406-238-6290.
“Our physician partners in this program are some of the best in the world,” said Dr. Cobb. “They have a hand in creating the guidelines that we use for taking care of these women. The fact that they’re willing to come here to work with our patients is a huge deal.”