EDINBURG — A separation of more than 200 miles between panels of cancer treatment specialists made little difference this week in the cases of three Rio Grande Valley hospital patients.
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance debuted its “virtual tumor board,” held in conjunction with the Cancer Therapy and Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Via webinar technology, the two panels met with video conferencing, presented patient case file information, viewed biopsy specimens and radiology scans with each other in real-time.
The board will meet monthly to discuss possible patient treatment plans. Now, patients can benefit from treatment delivered by experts throughout the region without the need to travel, the hospital said.
In a statement, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance called the board the “centerpiece” of its cancer program. It will bring nurses, other staff and doctors who specialize in surgery, medical oncology, radiology and pathology together to improve patient care and educate one another, the hospital said.
“When the diagnosis is cancer, patients want the best possible treatment options,” Eugenio Galindo, medical director of the hospital’s cancer center, said in the statement. “Through tumor board meetings, physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer come together with one goal in mind — to share their expertise and recommend the optimal treatment plan for each patient.”
Other facilities like the UC Davis Cancer Center, at least one Veterans Affairs health care network and the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center utilize virtual tumor boards.
On Wednesday, more than a dozen doctors discussed a 35-year old woman who arrived in the emergency room with an enlarged uterus and tumor in her ovary. A DHR doctor on the panel described her post-hysterectomy recovery, noting it was remarkable and she had little pain.
“All of us are sitting here with our mandibles on the table,” a doctor in San Antonio said in response.
In the next case, images from PET and CT scans of a 69-year-old obese man with lung masses were shown.
In a third case, the treatment of a 44-year-old woman with an enlarged uterus, seen for the first time by a DHR doctor that day, was discussed.
Ghanem Daghestani, DHR medical oncology and hematology doctor, noted she had stomach pain and abnormal spotting at a young age and is only breadwinner for her family. He said a lesion had been found, prompting the recommendation from another doctor to conduct a biopsy and, depending on the results, treat with chemotherapy to gauge a response.
Moments before, Daghestani made a remark that spoke to the heart of the virtual tumor board’s purpose:
“The question is how to approach this lady,” he said.
Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement, courts and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, (956) 683-4434 or on Twitter, @jarmendariz.