For patients fighting cancer, access to the latest advancements and treatments is a critical factor in choosing where to go for care. At UMMC, our doctors meet regularly as part of interdisciplinary teams to review cases and recommend individualized treatment plans specific to each patient. Together, they discuss the different types of therapies and what will work best for the type and stage of cancer, taking into account the patient’s age, physical well-being, and other health factors.
At UMMC, all of our treatments and services follow the standards set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. This collaborative group is comprised of physicians and researchers from 27 medical centers across the United States who are dedicated to providing quality, effective, and efficient cancer care. The NCCN guidelines provide an evidence-based protocol for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support that may lead to positive, life-saving outcomes.
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UMMC physicians perform highly specialized surgeries to help diagnose and treat cancer. Our surgeons work with patients every step of the way, and consult with a team of specialists before recommending a procedure. The goal is to remove as much of the unhealthy tissue as possible, using the least invasive method, and to maintain function and mobility while offering the best possible chance of curing the disease.
Our surgeons offer some complex surgeries not available elsewhere in Mississippi, including liver transplants, complex abdominal surgeries, and reconstructive techniques that make recovery easier. Surgeons who remove a cancer also work closely with reconstructive surgeons to plan each patient’s surgery. While the top priority is to remove the cancer, surgeons working together can provide a better reconstructive process.
Most surgeries are performed at University Hospital on the main UMMC campus. Sometimes, surgery will be preceded or followed by a course of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. Once a treatment plan is agreed upon by the interdisciplinary team, a cancer care coordinator will provide all of the necessary information on what to expect before, during, and after surgery. They will also connect patients and families to any other needed services, such as pain management or rehabilitation.
Radiation is a targeted, localized treatment using high-energy waves to shrink and destroy cancer cells or tumors. Here, we use the latest technology and state-of-art equipment to design therapy treatments specifically tailored to the individual patient and case. Our radiation oncologists are leaders in their field, and serve as part of interdisciplinary teams specializing in treating specific types of cancer.
The team reviews each case and decides on a course of treatment and timeline best suited to the patient’s disease, health needs, and availability. The therapy process usually lasts five to seven weeks, but accelerated treatments can be administered when appropriate. The care team will also devise a plan for any additional treatments to be used in conjunction with radiation.
Before starting, the radiation oncologist will carefully plan and simulate how the radiation and target beams will be administered to the cancerous area. It can be delivered from outside the body, external beam radiation, or from inside the body, brachytherapy. The therapy received and how it is received will be determined by many factors such as the size of the tumor, location, the type of cancer, and medical history. We also offer anesthesia for patients who have difficulty staying still during treatment. Radiation therapy is performed at the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute and University Hospital.
At UMMC, we perform many types of radiation therapy, including:
Chemotherapy is a treatment using medications to shrink tumors, destroy cancer cells, or keep cancer from spreading. Treatments are given in cycles, so patients may receive chemotherapy every three to four weeks over several months. The chemotherapy drugs are administered three ways: through an IV, through an injection, or in pill form.
IV treatments at UMMC are typically done on an outpatient basis at the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute and Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants. We offer private rooms or larger common rooms, where patients sit together to receive treatments. Private rooms, only available at the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute in the Jackson Medical Mall, include a comfortable chair, TV, and a side chair for a friend or family member.
Patients may lose their hair during chemo treatments, and UMMC provides donated wigs, scarves, and turbans in the Cancer Center and Research Institute Appearance Room. Talk to a care team coordinator about this service, or learn more about supportive care at UMMC.
Sometimes the body itself can help fight off cancer, just like it does with other illnesses. Through the use of drugs, immunotherapy gives a boost to the body’s own immune system to help identify and destroy cancer cells, and even prevent cancer from spreading. There are many types of immunotherapy used to treat cancer, but the most common is immune checkpoint therapy. This method uses T cells to attack cancerous cells, but then cuts off the defense mechanism before causing damage to the body.
Immunotherapy isn’t for everyone but is often used to treat advanced staged cancer. Care teams at UMMC will decide if this treatment option is right for the type and stage of diagnosis and may recommend this treatment as a combination with other therapies. It is administered similarly to chemotherapy and can be given on an outpatient basis as a pill or an infusion. Infusions can be administered at the UMMC Cancer Center and Research Institute and Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants.
UMMC offers the state's only program for transplanting stem cells gathered from circulating blood, bone marrow, and cord blood. Bone marrow transplants are one of the treatment options for adults and children with immune deficiencies, metabolic disorders, sickle cell diseases, and certain types of cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
The bone marrow transplant program at UMMC began in 1992 with four transplants, and has now performed over 1,000 blood and marrow stem cell transplants. Our clinical program, bone marrow harvest, apheresis collection areas and marrow transplant processing lab have been continuously accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy since 2002. The program also has achieved a Center of Excellence level, the highest awarded, from the Optum Transplant Network. We are also affiliated with the National Marrow Donor Program® network as a center for transplants, donors, collection, and apheresis.
Our interdisciplinary team includes adult and pediatric hematologists, patient care coordinators, and nurses who work together to care for patients and families. Our low nurse-to-patient ratio means each patient receives a high level of personal care. The bone marrow transplant unit is housed in Conerly Critical Care Hospital, and the 12-bed unit features special HEPA filtration, a kitchen and laundry, a children's activity room, wireless internet, a family visiting room, and an outpatient infusion center. Our facilities also include an on-site stem cell collection, processing, and storage center that is FDA registered and FACT accredited.
The search for a cure is ongoing. Clinical trials are studies testing new medications and techniques designed to improve cancer treatments.This important research is necessary to making breakthroughs in cancer treatments, and giving millions of patients hope for a future.
Scientists and physicians work for years to move a trial from investigation to development to initiation. The principal investigator, who runs the trial, sets a protocol for who can participate and how treatments and tests are administered. Once it begins, trials range from standard therapy to new, experimental treatments, and patients are monitored closely.
UMMC joins thousands of others across the nation to find new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer. As one of our three missions, we participate in research with other medical organizations, as well as institutional-initiated and industry-sponsored studies and clinical trials. Doctors will recommend a trial for a patient if it’s an appropriate treatment option. Patients can also request information about trials, and whether they are eligible for participation.
After surgery and some cancer treatments, patients may need physical or occupational therapy to help regain or reinforce daily living skills. Our therapists work with individuals to evaluate physical skills and set goals for rehabilitation, and then design a program to help patients be physically able to meet those goals.
Rehabilitation helps patients regain mobility, strength, stamina, and restore motions needed for daily living. Based on physical ability, some programs are done at a hospital or rehab facility, and others are done on an outpatient basis at a clinic or with a home health therapist at home.
Many patients treated for head and neck cancers have problems swallowing or speaking. Speech pathologists, part of the UMMC Ear, Nose, and Throat team, will work with patients to regain these functions.
UMMC also has a certified lymphedema therapist as part of our care team. When doctors have to remove lymph nodes, lymphatic fluid may not flow as easily as before sometimes causing pain or swelling. Therapists teach patients physical exercises and techniques to help prevent or deal with these symptoms. New surgical techniques mean fewer people experience problems with lymphedema.
Palliative care helps relieve and control symptoms so individuals can live life as fully as possible, and includes pain management, mental health treatment, end of life care, and family support. When needed, UMMC’s palliative care team works with the patient and family to decide on goals for care and what kind of treatments, if any, are received.
Not all palliative care patients are terminal. Some patients seek this as a treatment method to help the body regain strength between cancer therapies. In many cases, this helps extend the life of cancer patients. For those with a terminal illness, palliative care helps them make end-of-life choices that reflect their values and priorities.