Cancer Support Services

 

cancer support services

Help for New Patients, Survivors, and Families

The cancer experience is life-changing for patients and their loved ones. Cancer patients need support before, during and after their treatment. At the MedStar Health Cancer Network, our goal is to provide compassionate and professional care to individuals affected by cancer, promote the healing process and treat the whole person.

Our genetic counselor and team of highly trained social workers, dietitians, and chaplains work closely with patients, family members and loved ones to make sure they have access to the resources they  need during the cancer journey—whether they are educational, financial, emotional or spiritual. Most of our services are free for MedStar Health Cancer Network patients.

Our services focus on building strength, resilience and hope—giving patients the skills to take control of their lives. We offer support groups, one-on-one counseling, educational workshops, and nutrition and exercise programs. Associates work one-on-one and in groups with patients and their loved ones.

Our services include:  

Cancer Rehabilitation

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Genetic Counseling

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 Support Services

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Support Groups & Survivorship

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National Cancer Survivors Day Celebrations

Every year cancer survivors and supporters gather to celebrate and share their amazing stories of perseverance, courage, and inspiration.  We are excited to share photos and videos of our annual celebrations. Click below to view.

Cancer Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation can improve the quality of life for people being treated for or who have completed treatment for cancer. Rehab can improve strength, decrease pain, treat lymphedema and much more. If you have an impairment or discomfort related to your cancer or cancer treatment, talk to your provider to see if rehab could help you. Click here for more information on Cancer Rehabilitation.

Genetic Counseling

Many patients who have a family history of cancer are now considering genetic testing. Our certified genetic counselors work with patients to determine if they are candidates for genetic testing and help them cope with any medical, psychological, financial, or other issues that may result. Patients who test positive for an inherited cancer gene are offered options in medical management, including screening and risk reduction. Click here for more information on Genetics Counseling.

Support Services

Financial Assistance

The cost of cancer care can be a significant financial burden. It is important to understand your insurance benefits and ask for help when you need it. Our financial counselors are trained to assist with any questions or concerns you may have about the cost of care, and can help determine if you may qualify for financial assistance.

Image Services

Our image services are focused on helping cancer patients regain a positive self-image. Services include breast prosthesis, demonstrations of cosmetics, skin care treatments, and hair replacement as well as wardrobe and makeup techniques. We also offer Look Good Feel Better, a free program from the American Cancer Society designed for women dealing with hair loss and skin changes from chemotherapy and radiation.

Integrative Therapy

We offer a variety of integrative therapies to support the healing of the mind and body, including massage therapy and therapeutic yoga. These services are available at several MedStar Health Cancer Network locations.   

Nutrition Counseling

Advice from a dietitian can help you manage symptoms before, during and after cancer treatment. Nutrition counseling helps patients optimize their treatment. Plus, good nutrition and healthy eating aids in recovery and helps patients achieve and maintain a better quality of life.

In addition to one-on-one counseling, we offer oncology nutrition classes throughout the year providing tips and ideas on how to make healthy and delicious meals.

Psychosocial and Pastoral Counseling

Dealing with cancer requires a supportive team. Psychosocial and pastoral counseling provide patients and their families with support coping with the many issues beyond the physical that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.

Support Groups and Retreats

We regularly host a variety of support groups and retreats to provide individuals who are living with cancer, cancer survivors and those who love them with the opportunity to share their experiences with others. These events are held at locations throughout the MedStar Cancer Network. 

Survivorship Planning and Counseling

Our commitment to your health extends beyond your initial treatment. Many cancer survivors find the transition back to everyday medical care difficult after years spent under the care and guidance of cancer specialists. We work with you through this process and follow up with you on a regular basis after the completion of treatment to ensure your long-term health.

For additional resources and more information on Survivorship learn more from the National Cancer Institute

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 1-877-715-HOPE.

Survivors Day Celebrations

Click here to view photos and videos from Survivors Day

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital
The Cancer Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
3333 North Calvert St.
Johnston Professional Bldg
G23
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
Oncology Center & Breast Center
12 MedStar Blvd. 
Bel Air, MD 21015


In The News

Breast Cancer Survivorship - WMAR Think Pink Housecalls

MedStar Health Cancer Network Earns National Accreditation with Commendation by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons

 CommissionCancer

Baltimore—(June 2, 2015)—The MedStar Health Cancer Network has been granted Three-Year Accreditation with Commendation from the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACoS). The Cancer Network, comprised of MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Good Samaritan, MedStar Harbor and MedStar Union Memorial Hospitals, is committed to delivering the highest standards of care—this national endorsement further validates the quality of care its experts provide to cancer patients in the Baltimore community.

“MedStar Health Cancer Network recognizes the importance of our multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer,” said Phyllis Gray, vice president of Oncology for the MedStar Health Cancer Network. “We are proud of our commitment to providing the best possible care and outcome. This achievement speaks to the quality of our program and the opportunity to impact lives because of the team focus on a complex group of diseases. Cancer treatment relies on consultation among surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists and other cancer specialists.”

To earn voluntary CoC accreditation, a cancer program must meet or exceed 34 CoC quality care standards, be evaluated every three years through a survey process, and maintain levels of excellence in the delivery of comprehensive patient-centered care. Three-Year Accreditation with Commendation is only awarded to a facility that exceeds standard requirements at the time of its triennial survey. 

The CoC Accreditation Program provides the framework for the four Baltimore MedStar Hospitals to improve the quality of patient care through various cancer-related programs that focus on the full spectrum of cancer care including prevention, early diagnosis, cancer staging, optimal treatment, rehabilitation, life-long follow-up for recurrent disease, and end-of-life care.  When patients receive care at a CoC facility, they also have access to information on clinical trials and new treatments, genetic counseling, and patient centered services including psycho-social support, a patient navigation process, and a survivorship care plan that documents the care each patient receives and seeks to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.

To learn more about the Cancer Network, click here.

The MedStar Health Baltimore Cancer Network was one of only 20 programs in the nation and one of two in Maryland to receive the 2015 Outstanding Achievement Award from American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer

About the MedStar Health Cancer Network

Comprised of four MedStar Health hospitals, the MedStar Health Cancer Network represents a true collaboration in cancer care. Our dedicated team of surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, oncology nurses and cancer support staff collaborate to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of cancer patients and their families throughout the greater Baltimore region. Our goal is to provide evidenced based quality, care with a focus on service and easy access.

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit MedStarHealth.org.

About The Commission on Cancer (CoC)
Established in 1922 by the American College of Surgeons, the CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving patient outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients through standard-setting, prevention, research, education, and the monitoring of comprehensive, quality care.  Its membership includes Fellows of the American College of Surgeons.  For more information, visit: www.facs.org/cancer.

Genetic Testing

Genetic Testing baltimore

The Rasmussen family, patients at MedStar Franklin Square, prepare for genetic testing for breast cancer. 

MedStar Health Cancer Network provides genetic counseling or testing (a simple blood test to detect the gene) to patients who believe they may be affected by a hereditary factor.

Most cancers are sporadic, meaning they are dependent on environmental factors such as diet or tobacco usage/exposure and not heredity—less than 5 percent of 1.5 million annual cancer cases (predominantly breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers) are based on heredity. However, family members can pass inherited cancer gene mutations from generation to generation. 

The knowledge from genetic testing can provide patients' options—including close monitoring or surgery to preemptively remove the areas where cancer may develop—and it may lead to prevention for future generations. It can also provide ease of mind if you do not have a genetic mutation. 

How do I learn about my genetic cancer risk and what can I do about it?

Our certified genetic counselor specializes in genetically inherited cancers. She will meet with you to assess your inherited cancer risk. During your initial two-hour assessment,

  • A family medical history will be taken
  • The role of inherited gene mutations will be explained
  • The likelihood that cancer-causing genes may have been (or may be) inherited by members of your family will be estimated
  • Your likelihood of developing cancer (at some time in your life) will be estimated
  • Ways to diagnose cancer at an early stage will be discussed
  • Opportunities to lower your risk of cancer will be discussed

From that meeting, some clients may pursue further genetic counseling where psychological and financial concerns are explored before deciding whether or not to pursue genetic testing. The testing itself requires only that a small sample of blood be drawn and sent to a genetics laboratory for analysis.

If you are identified as high-risk, we recommend increased screenings and suggest you discuss other risk-reducing options with your physician.

Who should seek counseling and possible genetic testing?

Patients who have strong family histories of cancer, especially a diagnosis of cancer at an early age, or who are in treatment for breast or ovarian cancer - or who are breast or ovarian cancer survivors - should seriously consider genetic testing.

If you test positive for a cancer gene mutation, this information is of vital importance to all your blood relatives: sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, children, grandchildren and other family members. Each family member has a 50:50 chance of having inherited the mutated gene.

Today, there is opportunity to practice good cancer prevention. Medical and surgical preventions are available as well as lifestyle changes and cancer screening. If your family members know that they are at increased risk of developing cancer, they can actually take action to protect themselves.

A personal choice

We recognize that genetic testing is a very personal choice. While the test itself usually involves no more than providing a blood sample, test results can be far-reaching. Our cancer risk assessment and counseling program is designed to answer your questions about:

    • Risk assessment procedures
    • DNA testing
    • Benefits and limitations
    • Psychological effect
    • Family issues
    • Insurance and privacy issues
    • Employment issues
    • Cancer education
    • Cancer risk reduction
    • Medical options
    • Physician referrals

 

Emily Kuchinsky, MS, CGC, Certified Genetic Counselor

To contact Ms. Kuchinsky, please call 443-777-7656.

Genetic Testing baltimoreEmily Kuchinsky, MS, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor and coordinator of the cancer risk assessment and counseling program for the MedStar Health Cancer Network. Ms. Kuchinsky has been consulting with patients and their families regarding genetic health concerns for more than 10 years. She conducts cancer risk assessment for patients and families with a personal and/or family history of cancer as well as genetic testing if the likelihood of a cancer genetic syndrome is high.

Ms. Kuchinsky is an integral part of the oncology services offered through the MedStar Health Cancer Network, participating in multiple tumor boards per week and providing input as to which patients should undergo a cancer risk assessment. She also conducts community outreach to educate consumers, as well as other healthcare providers, about cancer genetics.  Certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling, Ms. Kuchinsky holds a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in genetic counseling. Her services are available at all Baltimore MedStar Health hospitals.

Listen to Emily Kuchinsky, MS, certified genetic counselor with the MedStar Health Cancer Network, to find out if you are a good candidate for genetic testing, and learn more about genetic testing from our experts: 

Location Information

Call 443-777-7656 to talk to Emily Kuchinsky, MS, CGC, certified genetic counselor.

Genetic Testing at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

Genetic Testing at MedStar Harbor Hospital
The Cancer Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
3333 North Calvert St.
Johnston Professional Bldg
G23
Baltimore, MD 21218

Learn More

Resources

Clinical Trials

clinical trials medstar health cancer network baltimore

The clinical trials research team at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center 

Our clinical trials program at the MedStar Health Baltimore Cancer Network is one of the largest in the state. The reputation of the Cancer Network, its doctors, and the greater availability of new treatments attract patients from a tri-state area.

See frequently asked questions about clinical trials, including: 

What is a clinical trial and why should you participate?

A clinical trial is a research study. People who participate receive either treatments not yet available to the general public, or available treatments used in new ways or in new combinations.

Clinical trials can offer the most up-to-date treatment for your cancer, and can represent a significant improvement in your care, especially if your first-line therapy has not been successful.

Participation means that you will receive the additional support of a research nurse. Your research nurse will be your advocate and will see to it that your treatment regimen follows strict clinical trial instructions. At the end of your treatment, your research nurse will continue to call you or your doctor to follow up on your condition.

Clinical trials are the most effective way to improve cancer survival rates. Your participation in a clinical trial will benefit future cancer patients.

What clinical trials are available?

The many cancer trials open for patient enrollment focus on the prevention, treatment, or palliation of different types of cancer. Most come with a quality of life component.

Because of MedStar Health Cancer Network’s reputation for quality of care, trials are sometimes available here when they are unavailable elsewhere.  Learn more about participating in a clinical trial.

What safeguards are in place before a clinical trial is offered?

Before a clinical trial is made available, it is reviewed by the MedStar Oncology Institutional Review Board. The IRB is a group of doctors, nurses, researchers, and community representatives who decide whether the clinical trial is safe and effective and whether it is based on the best interests of the people who will participate in it. Guidelines regulating these decisions are set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Patients must also meet the specific criteria of the trial (i.e., stage of disease) and they must sign an informed consent that states they have been advised of all the medical aspects of the clinical trial. The doctor and the research nurse individually educate the patient about the regimen of treatment to be received.

The patient also has the right to stop participation in the trial at any time.

Who sponsors clinical trials?

Our cancer trials are sponsored by multi-institutional research groups supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pharmaceutical companies, and independent investigators. 

We are part of the MedStar Oncology Network which is a collaborative oncology research effort involving all MedStar hospitals including Georgetown (Lombardi Cancer Institute), Washington Hospital Center (Washington Cancer Institute), and MedStar community hospitals.

Can I discontinue treatment if I change my mind?

Yes. You are free to discontinue treatment at any time. This will not affect your relationship with your doctor. Your doctor and cancer program staff will provide other available care. In fact, if your doctor believes that the treatment you receive in the clinical trial is not helping, or that its side effects are too harmful, he or she will take you out of the study.

How will I be billed for my treatment?

Billing is the same for clinical trial participants and non-participants. Treatments are charged to your insurance company. Other sources of funding may cover additional costs of the clinical trial.

Learn more about clinical trials at MedStar Health Cancer Network Baltimore in the video below: 

 

For more information or to participate in a clinical trial call 1-877-715-HOPE

Learn More

Location Information

Clinical Trials at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital
The Cancer Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

Clinical Trials at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
3333 North Calvert St.
Johnston Professional Bldg
G23
Baltimore, MD 21218

In the News

Colon Cancer Screening

A. Steven Fleisher, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology, with a patient.

The MedStar Health Cancer Network has joined forces with the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable by pledging to support the “80% by 2018” initiative – a nationwide goal to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% in the next two years. Learn more about the partnership

The Facts about Colon Cancer

Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older. In the United States, it is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer—but it doesn't have to be. The exact cause of colon cancer is not known. That is why it is important to get regular screenings.

A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn't have symptoms. Colon cancer screening can find polyps, or abnormal growths, before they turn into cancer so they can be removed. Screening can also find colon cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective.

Regular colon cancer screening tests can help prevent disease and save lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colon cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most successful.

Screening Guidelines

Colon cancer screening tests can help prevent disease and save lives. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the following screenings for colon cancer beginning at age 50 through age 75:

  • A colonoscopy, which uses a flexible, lighted tube to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon, every 10 years.
  • A flexible sigmoidoscopy, which uses a flexible, lighted tube to look at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon, every five years.
  • A high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which checks for hidden blood in the stool, every year.

Many doctors today prefer a colonoscopy for detecting colorectal cancer because it lets them see the entire colon. Plus, if your doctor sees something unusual, polyps or tissue samples can be taken out right away.

If you or someone you know has a colon problem or if you need a screening test, call the MedStar Health Cancer Network for an appointment at 877-715-HOPE. Our expertise can make a big difference in getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment, right away. 

No Cost Screening

If you are 50 or older, live in Baltimore City or Anne Arundel County and have a low income, you may be eligible for a no cost screening. Screenings are offered at three of our local hospitals, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital, and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital with transportation offered to and from appointments.

Our expertise can make a big difference in getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment, right away. Eligibility and coverage details for no cost screenings are provided below, or you can call 410-350-8216 or 410-350-3444 (Spanish) to see if you qualify. 

Eligibility

  • A Baltimore City or Anne Arundel County resident
  • Age 50 or older
  • Under 50 with symptoms or a family history of colon cancer
  • Living on a limited income

Coverage

  • Health Insurance: We will pay for what Medicare, Medicaid and Commercial Insurance doesn’t, including: deductibles, co-insurance and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • No Health Insurance: We will pay all the costs.

Learn more from our health experts about colorectal cancer screenings.

Testicular Cancer

Every year, hundreds of thousands of men are diagnosed with cancers specific to men. The good news is that these cancers are treatable, if found early. However, many men hesitate to be screened for these cancers because of traditional male stereotypes and a fear that, if diagnosed, a surgical treatment will be necessary.

The specialists at MedStar Health encourage men to be screened, as a diagnosis of testicular cancer does not automatically mean surgery—depending on the stage of the cancer, a number of options can be explored. And, should you be diagnosed with cancer, our teams will be with you each step of the way, give you the most advanced compassionate care available.

About

Testicular cancer is a relatively rare, but highly curable, disease. Though it accounts for only one percent of all cancer in men, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 35. It is also more common in Caucasian men than in African American, Asian, or Hispanic men.

The two main classifications of testicular cancer are:

  1. Seminomas: Pure seminomas account for about 40 percent of all testicular cancer and are made up of immature sperm-forming cells called germ cells. Usually, seminomas are slow-growing and stay localized in the testicle for long periods.
  2. Nonseminomas: Nonseminomas arise from more mature, specialized germs cells than seminomas, and they tend to be more aggressive. Nonseminomas are a group of cancers that often occur in combination with one another, including choriocarcinoma, embryonal carcinoma, immature teratoma, and yolk sac tumors.

Risks

No one really knows what causes testicular cancer. Research has shown that some men are more likely than others to develop it. A man who has previously had testicular cancer is at increased risk of developing cancer in the other testicle. Research has also shown that testicular cancer is sometimes linked to certain other rare conditions in which the testicles do not develop normally, including:

  • Undescended testicle or cryptorchidism (a testicle that has never moved down into the scrotum): Men who have undescended testicles are at higher risk of developing cancer of the testicle than other men whose testicles have moved down into the scrotum, even if they have had surgery to correct this.
  • Klinefelter's syndrome: Men with Klinefelter's syndrome (a sex chromosome disorder characterized by low levels of male hormones, sterility, breast enlargement, and small testes) are at greater risk of developing testicular cancer.

Testicular Self-Exam

If you're a man between the ages of 15 and 40, this monthly self-exam of your testicles can help detect testicular cancer at an early—and curable—stage. It is simple to do and takes only a few minutes.

  • Take a warm bath or shower to relax the scrotum. This makes it easier to spot anything abnormal.
  • Stand naked in front of a mirror.
  • Check the skin of your scrotum for swelling.
  • Feel the right testicle within your scrotal sac.
  • With your index and middle fingers under the testicle, thumbs placed on top, roll the testicle between the thumbs and fingers.
  • Find the epididymis, the soft, cordlike structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. (Do not confuse the epididymis with a lump. Cancerous lumps usually are found on the sides of the testicle, but can also show up on the front. Lumps on the epididymis are not cancerous.)
  • Feel for a lump on the surface of the testicle.
  • Repeat with the left testicle.

If you find a lump or swelling, see your doctor right away. The abnormality may not be cancer; it may be an infection. But if it is testicular cancer, it will spread if untreated.

Diagnosis

Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves. Doctors generally examine the testicles during routine physical exams; however, men should perform a testicular self-exam regularly and report any changes to their doctor. Symptoms of testicular cancer and other conditions are often similar, making it very important to see a doctor, preferably a urologist, if you have the following:

  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • Any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A significant shrinking of a testicle
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum

At MedStar Health, we use several tests to diagnosis testicular cancer including:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Blood tests for tumor markers: alpha fetoprotein (AFP), human chronic gonadotrophin (beta HCG), and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Ultrasound of the scrotum

Treatment

If found early, testicular cancer is almost always curable. Treatment at MedStar Health depends on the type and stage of the cancer, the patient's age and general health, and other factors.

There are essentially three types of treatment, which may be used alone or in combination:

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for most stages of cancer of the testicle. A doctor may take out the cancer by removing one or both testicles. Also, surgery may be needed to remove the lymph nodes into which the testicles drain. (Surgical removal of lymph nodes usually is not necessary for patients with seminomas, which are slow growing and tend to stay localized.)

In the past, everyone with testicular cancer had some additional treatment beyond surgery. However, researchers have a better understanding of how the disease spreads and how to treat it. For instance, men whose cancer is stage one (confined to the testes) may not need any further treatment. For these patients, waiting and watching with regular testing is a reasonable option.

Men who opt to watch and wait must undergo regular testing, which may include regular chest X-rays, blood tests to measure tumor marker levels, physical exams, and abdominal CT scans.

Radiation Therapy

In radiation therapy, X-rays or other high-energy rays are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local treatment and affects only the cells in the treated area. Radiation therapy is usually done on an outpatient basis.

Seminomas are highly sensitive to radiation. Following surgery, men with seminomas may have radiation therapy to their abdominal lymph nodes. Nonseminomas are much less sensitive to radiation, so men with this type of cancer usually do not undergo radiation. Radiation therapy affects normal as well as cancerous cells.

The side effects of radiation therapy depend mainly on the treatment dose. Common side effects include fatigue, skin changes at the site where the treatment is given, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer. Anticancer drugs are recommended when there are signs that the cancer has spread. These medications also are sometimes used when the doctor suspects that undetected cancer cells remain in the body after surgery or irradiation. This is known as adjuvant therapy.

Effects on Fertility

Many men worry that losing one testicle will affect their ability to have sexual intercourse or make them sterile. But a man with one healthy testicle can still have a normal erection, produce sperm, and father a child. Therefore, surgery to remove just one testicle does not make a patient impotent.

However, some treatments can affect a man's fertility. Radiation therapy interferes with sperm production, but most patients regain their fertility within a matter of months. Some anticancer drugs also interfere with sperm production. Although the reduction in sperm count is permanent for some patients, many others recover their fertility.

Also, surgery to remove the lymph nodes can cause infertility because it may interfere with the nerves involved in ejaculation. Some men may recover the ability to ejaculate without further treatment; others may be helped by medication. For many, though, it could be permanent. Men should talk to their doctor about a nerve-sparing surgical technique that may protect the ability to ejaculate.

Urethral Cancer

The urethra is a tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body to be eliminated as waste. In women, the urethra is located above the vagina. In men, the urethra threads through the prostate gland and into the penis.

Urethral cancer is rare, occurs more often in women than men, and because it can grow quickly, it is often found in surrounding parts of the body by the time it is detected.

Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine
  • An inability to maintain a strong flow while urinating
  • Pain while urinating
  • Lumps in the groin and/or penis
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your MedStar Health doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Laboratory analysis of urine to check for blood and/or cancer cells
  • Biopsy of the urethra or surrounding tissue to check for cancerous growths
  • Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): By inserting a gloved finger into the rectum, your doctor can examine the prostate gland; the size, shape, and any irregularities will be noted.
  • Cystoscopy: While looking through a cystoscope inserted into the urethra, your doctor is able to determine if tumors or other signs of disease are present.

After careful physical examination of your body, as well as your diagnostic tests, your doctor will create an individualized treatment program that is right for you. Your doctor may recommend:

These three approaches together serve as the model for multi-disciplinary care in the treatment of urethral cancer.

Kidney Cancer

Approximately 30,000 cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the United States yearly, according to the American Cancer Society.

At MedStar Health, we provide comprehensive care for kidney cancer including:

  • Laparoscopic radical nephrectomy
  • Open radical nephrectomy for large tumors
  • Partial nephrectomy for preservation of the kidney (open, laparoscopic, or robotic surgery)
  • Small molecule targeted therapy for late stage treatment
  • Palliative​ services

Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • A feeling of generalized pressure in the pelvis, possibly caused by the tumor pressing on other organs near the kidneys.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Analysis of urine under a microscope to check for blood and possible cancerous cells
  • Radiological imaging of the entire urologic system, including ultrasound
  • Bone scan, to check for spread of cancer

Fortunately, the treatment for kidney cancer has become technologically advanced. Sophisticated imaging scans like CTs and MRIs make finding smaller tumors easier, and minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic and robotic surgeries, speed healing and recovery.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is diagnosed in 50,000 patients annually in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

At MedStar Health, we provide comprehensive care for bladder cancer including:

  • Chemotherapy and immunotherapy for early stage treatment
  • Radical cystectomy with continent urinary diversion (bladder replacement using intestine instead of external drainage system)
  • Robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery
  • Cutting-edge medical oncology and radiation treatment
  • Palliative services

Symptoms

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain during urination
  • Pain in the pelvis

Diagnosis and Treatment

Bladder cancer occurs predominantly in elderly men and less frequently in women and younger men. Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and will perform a thorough physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Analysis of urine under a microscope to check for blood and possible cancerous cells
  • Radiological imaging of the entire urologic system, including ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy with biopsies

Fortunately, 80 percent of bladder tumors can be readily treated with endoscopic techniques, which remove the tumors through the cystoscope via the urethra. At times, immunotherapy—a form of the tuberculosis vaccine known as BCG—is instilled in the bladder to treat or prevent recurrences.

However, in 20 percent of patients, the cancer has invaded into the bladder wall, and more aggressive treatment is required. This may involve:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bladder cancer surgery
    • Robotic cystectomy is simply a minimally invasive surgical method for bladder cancer. This procedure offers bladder cancer patients the prospect of a more effective surgery and less problematic post-surgical recovery.
  • A combination of the three

Adrenal Cancer

 The kidneys, responsible for cleaning and purifying the blood, are located inside the upper part of the abdomen. Sitting above each of the kidneys, you will find the adrenals, small glands made up of two parts:

  1. Cortex: the outer part of the gland, which produces important hormones for the body.
  2. Medulla:  the inner part of the gland, which is an extension of the nervous system.

The adrenal cortex is where tumors can cancers can develop; however, they are rare, and most are benign (non-cancerous). Two main types of adrenal cortex tumors exist:

  1. Adenomas: Most tumors of the adrenal cortex are benign adenomas. These are small tumors, usually less than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) in diameter. They usually occur in only one adrenal gland, but sometimes affect both glands.
  2. Carcinoma: The type of cancer that develops in the cortex of the adrenal gland is called adrenal cortical carcinoma. Generally, adrenal cortical cancers are much larger than adrenal adenomas. An adrenal tumor larger than 5 or 6 centimeters (about 2-2.5 inches) is usually malignant or cancerous. In one study, the average size was about 4-5 inches.

Symptoms

Most people with adrenal adenomas have no symptoms. Some of these adenomas are found when CT or MRI scans of the abdomen are ordered because of unrelated health problems. Many are nonfunctional adenomas; the cells are not producing enough steroid hormones to cause any symptoms.

Adrenal cortical cancers usually are discovered because the patient has a variety of symptoms, including

  • Weight gain and fluid retention
  • Excess facial or body hair growth in women
  • Early puberty in children

These symptoms are caused by excessive amounts of hormones produced by the tumor.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Weight loss

These symptoms may occur because the tumor has grown and causes symptoms by pressing on other organs in the area.

Treatment

Our team of experts provides comprehensive care in the treatment of adrenal tumor and cancer care. Benign adenomas can be surgically treated both laparoscopically and through open surgery.

Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy

A technique called laparoscopic adrenalectomy allows the surgeon to remove the adrenal gland with an adenoma through an instrument called a laparoscope. The laparoscope is a thin tube with a tiny video camera on the end. Once inserted through a small surgical opening in the patient's side, it allows the doctors to see where the tumor is growing. Other instruments inserted through this tube or through other very small incisions are used to remove the adrenal gland.

In some cases, adrenal adenomas that cause hormone-related symptoms can be treated with medications that stop the production or actions of these hormones. There are also small adenomas, discovered while looking for something else, that are not causing any symptoms. These do not need any treatment.

Treating Adrenal Cortical Cancers

In most cases, your doctor will recommend surgery to remove the tumor as well as the adrenal gland. Your doctor may choose a laparoscopic approach for surgery. This approach usually speeds healing and recovery after the surgery. Chemotherapy may be recommended to halt the growth of cancer throughout the body.