Archive for the ‘Cancer’ Category

Remembering Dr. George Kao

It is with profound sadness that I share heartbreaking news of the passing of Dr. George Kao, radiation oncologist, known to many as the “father” of cancer care in Southern Illinois. Dr. Kao died Saturday morning at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.

Dr. Kao cared for tens of thousands of patients throughout his 28 years at SIH and planted the seeds for what is today the SIH Cancer Institute. He is remembered for his sense of humor, exuberance, unfaltering commitment to his patients and love for his team. Dr. Marsha Ryan, a longtime colleague who helped recruit Dr. Kao in 1990, said it best: “He made us all better.”

Please join me in expressing my deepest sympathies to Dr. Kao’s wife, Janet, twin daughters Alexia and Alaina, and the close friends and coworkers he called “family”.

Lung Cancer Awareness

Our #1 Cancer Killer – Lung cancer claims more lives than colorectal, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers combined. As is the case across the country, lung cancer in southern Illinois is often diagnosed at later stages (III & IV) when it is much more difficult to treat. In fact, the advanced stage lung cancer population in southern Illinois is greater than the national average across all Commission on Cancer-accredited hospitals in the US. Because of our region’s particularly high incidence rate, Southern Illinois Healthcare and the SIH Cancer Institute are proud to offer the Lung Cancer Screening Clinic to help catch this potentially deadly cancer early.

If you are 55-77 years old, a current or former smoker who quit smoking less than 15 years ago and you have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years, etc.), and you do not currently have signs or symptoms of lung cancer, you are at high risk for developing lung cancer and likely eligible for a potentially life-saving screening. The SIH Lung Cancer Screening Clinic provides access to the most advanced diagnostic screening tool available today – the low-dose spiral CT (Computed Tomography) scan.

State-of-the-Art CT – CT screening is a non-invasive medical test performed in the hospital Imaging Department. A CT scan is able to detect small nodules that cannot be detected by a chest X-Ray. There is no preparation needed for a low-dose CT scan and the screening is quick and easy – taking only 5-10 seconds. Concerns about radiation exposure from CT can be discussed with the clinician, but the dose of radiation from a CT scan is believed to be equal to the normal amount of environmental radiation people experience over a typical 6-month period. Experts have determined that the benefits of screening far outweigh the very small chance that annual CT screenings (over many years) could cause cancer to develop.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies that participate in state health insurance exchanges must provide preventative CT screenings with no out-of-pocket expense to the patient.

A referral from your primary care provider is necessary to obtain a screening, so it is critical to discuss your risk factors and eligibility for screening. Once referred, our dedicated lung cancer screening nurse navigator, Kari Winters, can order the CT scan, in addition to offering a more comprehensive explanation of the risks, benefits and possible results of the screening.
If you are a current smoker, you will also receive counseling for smoking cessation and the best possible interventions for you. A CT screening is never a replacement for smoking cessation and quitting is the single best thing you can do for your health right now. Prevention, and early detection, saves lives.

The SIH Lung Cancer Screening Clinic is a service of the SIH Cancer Institute. For more information, call lung cancer screening nurse navigator, Kari Winters, at 618.529.0520 or visit

Breast Cancer Awarness Month

The sobering reality is that breast cancer impacts 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. Each year, 40,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer. If detected early, however, the breast cancer survival rate can be as high as 99% and finding cancer early means that many cases may be treated without the removal of the breast. The most important fact of all is that awareness is key and screening is easier than you might think.

SIH physicians, nurse practitioners, patient navigators and a breast cancer survivor were featured throughout the month of October on WSIL-TV’s Monday morning House Call segment to discuss screening, diagnosis, treatment, support and survivorship for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Five segments aired on the ABC affiliate, each Monday in October, highlighting every aspect of breast cancer care.


The first segment features Ruthann Coale, Nurse Practitioner at The Breast Center, discussing the common risk factors for breast cancer and what is involved in screening.

The second segment looks at treatment options once a diagnosis has been made with Dr. Nova Foster, Medical Director of The Breast Center. Dr. Foster is quick to point out that a diagnosis is not the end of the road. In fact, Dr. Foster leads with the encouraging statement that “the first thing to know is that, when you get diagnosed with breast cancer, we are really good at treating breast cancer. We’re really good at picking it up early now, and then once we find it, we’re really good at treating it.” Click here

The thirst segment, featuring Dr. George Kao, a Radiation Oncologist at The SIH Cancer Institute,
delves into the advancements in treatment options and techniques being employed at The Cancer Institute.

The fourth segment takes a deeper look at breast imaging guidelines and reemphasizes the importance of screening with advanced tools like 3D mammography, ultrasound and MRI with Dr. Shanaree Muzinich from The SIH Breast Center and Cape Radiology.

Finally, the month’s coverage wraps up with a discussion of support options and survivorship with SIH Cancer Institute Patient Navigator, Krystal Zsido, and breast cancer survivor, Shanna Higgerson.
Click here

For more information about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, please call 800.360.6902 or visit

Breakthrough Cancer Treatment

Another regional first in surgical advances

Specialists with SIH Medical Group have completed not one, but two, cutting edge procedures for advanced abdominal cancers. Dr. Suven Shankar, surgical oncologist, led the team effort to introduce cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale in late September.

HIPEC is the acronym for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy treatment delivered directly to the abdomen during surgery.

“HIPEC is a treatment option for people who have advanced spread of cancer within the abdomen, without disease involvement outside of the abdomen,” said Dr. Shankar.

How it Works

HIPEC involves distributing liquid chemotherapy – heated to 42 degrees Celsius – into the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes following cytoreductive surgery (tumor removal.) The benefit? Heated chemotherapy destroys the microscopic cancer cells that remain after surgery; cancer cells invisible to the naked eye.

Here’s a short video clip with Dr. Shankar and Dr. Satyadeep Bhattacharya just prior to performing the second HIPEC procedure at MHC last Thursday, involving a patient with advanced colon cancer. Dr. Bhattacharya discovered the patient’s cancer had spread to the inner abdominal lining during the initial surgery.

The first procedure in September involved a patient with a benign tumor of the appendix with mucus and producing cells (disseminated peritoneal adenomucinosis mucous or “jelly belly” in lay terms) that had spread over the lower abdomen and mid-abdomen.

Team Training

Drs. Shankar, Bhattacharya and an OR team from MHC traveled to Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore for advanced training. Dr. Shankar completed his fellowship at Mercy, where he performed upwards of 50 HIPEC procedures in recent years.

“We certainly needed education for the entire OR crew, including the ICU and PCU nursing staff and anybody that would come into contact with this entire process. A lot of training and education went into this; it was an undertaking for the entire staff for a few months.”

“It’s exciting; because this is not commonly performed in leading cancer programs across the county yet; BJC in St. Louis is just now assembling their team.”

So, how much do you know about breast cancer?

Test your knowledge of six common beliefs about breast cancer.

1. You can get breast cancer even if it doesn’t run in your family. True or false?

True. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer – more than 85% – have no family history of the disease. Having a relative with breast cancer does increase your risk. But other factors such as age, being overweight, alcohol use, and hormone therapy after menopause can also increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

2. If breast cancer runs in your family, you’re sure to get it. True or false?

False. Having breast cancer in your family doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. Many times, cancer runs in families because they have similar lifestyle habits – habits you can control and change to lower your risk of breast cancer. This includes staying at a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking.

If you do suspect you have an inherited gene mutation, talk to your doctor about genetic counseling. The most common defects or mutations that increase breast cancer risk are in the BRCA genes. Knowing your family history empowers you to tackle the risk factors you can control. It should also motivate you to get screened regularly so that breast cancer is caught early – when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and is easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about what your risk is, when you need to start screening, and whether you need extra tests beyond mammograms.

3. You still need mammograms after menopause. True or false?

True. Getting older is not a reason to skip regular breast health checks. In fact, your risk of developing breast cancer goes up as you get older. About 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older. As long as you’re in good health and would be a candidate for treatment, you should continue getting mammograms.

4. Men can get breast cancer. True or false?

True. More than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Men should not ignore breast lumps and should get any breast changes checked. Still, breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than men, with more than 240,000 women diagnosed in each year.

5. Surgery and needle biopsies can cause breast cancer to spread. True or false?

False. Needle biopsies to diagnose breast cancer do not cause cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Nor does exposure to air during breast cancer surgery cause the disease to spread. Sometimes a surgeon does find more cancer than the imaging scans or X-rays showed, but in those cases the cancer was already there. It just hadn’t shown up on tests that were done.

6. There’s nothing you can do to lower your breast cancer risk. True or false?

False. While you can’t change certain risk factors – like being female and having a family history of breast cancer – you can do a lot to help reduce your breast cancer risk as much as possible. In a word: lifestyle. Exercise more and eat healthier, especially if you’re overweight or obese. Limit or eliminate alcohol and quit smoking. Cancer prevention isn’t fool-proof, but being responsible about your health can go a long way.

Source: American Cancer Society

It’s October! Have you scheduled your screening at The Breast Center?

We know, the breast cancer screening guidelines are confusing. It’s no longer a “one-size-fits-all” recommendation. No one disputes that screening mammography is still the best option for detecting cancer early. Have a good chat with your doctor. It should be a shared decision with your personal feelings, coupled with your personal risk for breast cancer.

Whenever you wish to begin screening, your insurance should cover screening mammograms starting at age 40 nationwide with no deductible.

Second Act Inspires Murphysboro Woman to Give Back to Cancer Patients

Jeanette Myers is blind, but perhaps she sees things more clearly than most of us. The Carbondale woman was born with congenital glaucoma, but has not let visually impairment stop her from enjoying life.

Jeanette and her late husband, Lawre, moved from California to southern Illinois six years ago to be near one of their sons and granddaughters. Not one to sit still, she became involved in the SIH Second Act knitting and crocheting group.

As an outgrowth of that experience, Jeanette decided to knit a collection of “chemo caps” for patients undergoing treatment at the SIH Cancer Institute. She uses Braille tags to mark her work to make sure she knows which colors she is using. After the yarn work is complete, a friend sews the flower decorations onto the caps. “It’s not just a one-person activity,” Jeanette explained.

While she’s knitting the caps, she thinks about the personal challenges patients face during cancer treatment. “A lady undergoing chemotherapy who loses her hair may also lose her self-confidence. Maybe they will put on a cap and say, ‘I look pretty good.’”

The caps are not only fashionable, but also serve another purpose in keeping a patient’s head warm.


“We lose most of our body heat through our head,” said Jeanette. She even uses a special type of yarn that has a bit of elasticity to help keep the heat in.

Jeanette’s father, husband and sons all served in the military, so she is also passionate about helping veterans. She crochets lap throws, which she donates to the Anna Veteran’s Home. “I make them long enough they can cover up their feet,” she said, as she bent down, to show the length of the throws.

Giving to and helping others has been Jeanette’s life’s work. She founded Northern California Vision Resource Center in 1995, a non-profit organization that helped provide magnifiers, talking watches, Braille lessons and mobility training to the visually impaired.

Jeanette attended a grade school for the visually impaired and was able to attend a regular high school and college. She has trained guide dogs, taught brail, spoke at numerous seminars and helped others with vision problems. “I once taught Braille to a superior court judge,” said Jeanette.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be able and do a lot of things in my life,” said Jeanette. “I like to keep my hands busy. The Lord has allowed me to be productive.”

Whether one is born with an impairment or one develops over the years, Jeanette’s advice is simple, “Forget the ‘I can’t. You can still do things, just in a different way,” she said.

“I’ve been fortunate,” said Jeanette, adding that people should never be afraid to learn new things. “Life begins today.”

New Support Group for Cancer Patients

The SIH Cancer Institute Support Group is a new service offered the second Monday of each month at the SIH Cancer Institute in Carterville. Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) Kristin Francis and certified oncology nurse, Krystal Zsido, lead the monthly sessions, which begin Monday, July 11.

SIH Cancer Institute Support Group
2nd Monday of the Month
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
At the SIH Cancer Institute in Carterville

The support group will offer an educational segment and an emotional support segment. “It will help patients gain knowledge about topics that can directly affect them in their treatment process, such as rehab services, financial services, coping, nutrition, and many others,” said Francis. “Emotional support will allow them to talk and vent with other patients, because they often feel they cannot share honest feelings and fears with their caregivers and loved ones.”

The group plans to have different guest speakers allowing the participants to get to know local resources and specialists.

“Our hope is that each participant will leave feeling a renewed sense of strength to continue fighting this disease,” said Francis.

For more details, call (618) 985-3333, extension 68315 or 68319. Participants do not need to be a current patient of the SIH Cancer Institute.

Fighting Colon Cancer: Keep up the Good Work!

The nationwide effort to prevent colon cancer is making a difference, in large part to people like you, who have taken an active approach to your health.

Since the mid-1980s, the colon cancer survival rate has been increasing for two reasons:

  • More people are getting screened for colon cancer
  • The treatment options have improved

But we can always do better. Colon cancer remains the third most common cancer diagnosis. Here are a few facts at a glance from Colon Cancer Alliance:


Your role in this effort is to continue to be proactive in your health, and to share your knowledge with others. Family members, friends, coworkers—tell them about the importance of screening.

Share this video about the importance.

At Southern Illinois Healthcare, we continue our efforts to provide you access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Here’s how:

  • These days, it should be common to hear your regular physician sharing information with you about colon cancer screening starting at age 50. Take his/her advice, and learn the different screening options.
  • Endoscopy services are available at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale Herrin Hospital, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital and the Physicians’ Surgery Center at Center for Medical Arts. In fact, St. Joseph recently expanded their services. Both facilities aim to make the exams both comfortable and safe.
  • Should you be diagnosed with colon cancer, you have access to a team of physicians who work together to offer the best plan of care. SIH has specialists in the field of gastroenterology, colon-rectal surgery, medical oncology and more who analyze all the aspects of your individual case.
  • With the SIH Cancer Institute, a dedicated treatment facility has made it easier for you to get the care you need, without the long drive to a metro area.

SIH Cancer Institute Celebrates 1 Year!

March 2nd marks the 1 Year Celebration of the SIH Cancer Institute. Some amazing work has happened, largely due to the support of the southern Illinois community members, like you.

Thanks to you, over 1000 new cancer patients received treatment in the last year. Their cancer journeys added up to over 13,000 visits through our doors!

Here’s a message from one of them

Clearly, the center was built for thousands of regional patients in need. You answered the call by joining us in the mission. You helped get us off the ground. It’s our honor to serve treatment to these patients with all the dignity, professionalism and strength they deserve.

“Our patients, who become like family, inspire us every day to ensure we continually grow and expand to meet their needs and those of their family members,” said Jennifer Badiu, System Director of the SIH Cancer Institute. “Our physicians and staff truly do love what they do, and it shows in every loving touch and warm smile.”

Some additional wins for the year include:

  • chaplain services
  • financial navigation
  • social work
  • supportive counseling
  • clinical trials
  • advances in infusion and radiation treatment services

We are proud of the accomplishments in a single year and we’ve only just begun. We ask for your continued support as we bring our patients hope, right here at home.

Your financial contributions play a role in helping our community get the cancer treatments they need in their own back yard. SIH Foundation is proud that a 100% of your funds go directly to the SIH Cancer Institute.

If you wish to give, contact the SIH Foundation at or please feel free to email or call 618.457.5200 ext 67843.

SIH Cancer Institute Receives National Outstanding Achievement Award

The SIH Cancer Institute was recently presented with the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award by the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). SIH’s cancer program is one of a select group of only 75 U.S. health care facilities with accredited cancer programs to receive this national honor for surveys performed last year. The award acknowledges cancer programs that achieve excellence in providing quality care to cancer patients.

The purpose of the award is to raise awareness on the importance of providing quality cancer care at health care institutions throughout the U.S. In addition, it is intended to:

  • Motivate other cancer programs to work toward improving their level of care.
  • Facilitate dialogue between award recipients and healthcare professionals at other cancer facilities for the purpose of sharing best practices.
  • Encourage honorees to serve as quality-care resources to other cancer programs.
  • Educate cancer patients on available quality-care options.

“This is a great honor and a direct reflection of dedicated physicians and staff. This recognition shows that we strive every day with every patient to go above and beyond, because that is what each patient and family deserves. We are honored to serve our community,” said SIH Cancer Institute System Director Jennifer Badiu.

SIH’s cancer program was evaluated on 34 program standards categorized within one of four cancer program activity areas: cancer committee leadership, cancer data management, clinical services, and quality improvement. The cancer program was further evaluated on seven commendation standards. To be eligible, all award recipients must have received commendation ratings in all seven commendation standards, in addition to receiving a compliance rating for each of the 27 other standards.

“Our goal at the SIH Cancer Institute is to provide the best individualized care for our patients. We are humbled and honored to receive this national recognition. Of note, this is a continuous effort; one that is ongoing to meet the needs of our patients with best practices and evidence-based cancer treatment today and into the future,” said Dr. George Kao, medical director of radiation oncology.

Click here for a list of all cancer programs in the U.S. that received the award.

About the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer

Established in 1922 by the ACS, 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. The CoC provides the public with information on the resources, services and cancer treatment experience for each CoC-accredited cancer program. The CoC’s accreditation program encourages hospitals, treatment centers, and other facilities to improve their quality of patient care through various cancer-related programs.