Cancer care in the Kenosha area is about to take a big leap forward. Actually, two big leaps.
Later this year, our radiation oncology specialist at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital will begin using expanded, state-of-the-art technology to treat cancers faster and more effectively than ever.
Then, a few months later, the curtain will rise on the expanded and completely renovated Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital Cancer Center, where substantially more patients can receive comprehensive cancer care services.
These dramatic advances are being made to better serve the thousands of people in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois who are battling cancer - patients who are increasingly relying on Froedtert South for the breakthrough care that can help them survive longer.
Pat Brown is one of those people. A retiree from the auto parts and service business, Pat lived in Gurnee, Illinois for 47 years. After his wife died two years ago, Pat sold the couple’s house, bought a 45-foot motor home, and now travels across the country with his 150-pound Newfoundland, Bailey.
“My doctor diagnosed me with prostate cancer a few years ago,” Pat recalled. “We monitored it until this past spring when he told me, ‘It is growing, and we need to do something.’”
Pat’s physician referred him to the Cancer Center at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital and Dr. Kevin Khater, a Radiation Oncologist with the Froedtert South Medical Group. “Those people are unbelievable!” Pat said, “I called and they saw me right away.”
Pat received radiation treatments for his prostate cancer for six weeks. “I was afraid at first,” Pat said, “but Dr. Khater and his team walked me through the procedure. After we completed the first treatment, I felt totally at ease.”
“Dr. Khater was there for every treatment, asking me, ‘How are you? How are things? Can I do anything for you?’” Pat said. “The treatments didn't cause any major side effects, and I felt really good overall. I liked the plan Dr. Khater and I chose, and we will continue to follow up to ensure that we see the intended results,” Pat said.
Soon, patients like Pat will be receiving radiation treatments from the Cancer Center’s new linear accelerator when it becomes operational by the end of this year.
“A linear accelerator, as its name suggests, accelerates subatomic particles in a straight line at nearly the speed of light,” Dr. Khater said. “That creates radiation that we can focus on tumors to treat cancer cells while enabling normal tissues surrounding the tumors to heal.”
“This significantly improves the radiation treatments we can perform,” Dr. Khater said. “It reduces the time it takes from about 20 minutes to just five. That means more convenience for patients,” Dr. Khater said.
“Patients will get the best of both worlds,” Dr. Khater said. “We will be able to blast a tumor with higher, more effective doses of radiation, while simultaneously sparing more of the normal tissue around it. In some instances, we may be able to give a patient the equivalent of four to six weeks of radiation therapy in as little as one to two weeks,” Dr. Khater said.
“Until now, we have been sending patients who require what we call radiosurgery to our colleagues in Milwaukee at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin,” Dr. Khater said. “Radiosurgery delivers extremely high doses of radiation to a very small area to obliterate the tumor, but must be delivered very accurately. Our new accelerator enables us to perform these precise, powerful radiation procedures right here in Kenosha County, close to home,” Dr. Khater said.
“We are all excited about our new accelerator because it is opening new doors, enabling us to deliver more advanced treatments to our patients,” Dr. Khater said.
“I would not hesitate to recommend Dr. Khater and the whole Cancer Center to anyone,” Pat Brown said. “When you find out you have cancer, don't be afraid of it. The people at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital will do everything possible to help you. They were a huge help to me.”
More advanced care for more cancer patients
“I had complained to my primary care doctor about shooting pains in my right ear,” recalled Cynthia Bryan, a retired librarian from Kenosha. “A CT scan revealed a large, malignant tumor on the back of my tongue.”
“Because I live in Kenosha, I wanted to be treated here, close to home,” Cynthia said. She was referred to Dr. Khater and his colleague Dr. David Knight, a Hematologist and Oncologist who is also with the Froedtert South Medical Group.
“Dr. Knight and Dr. Khater saw me immediately,” Cynthia said. “They told me the tumor was treatable and that they were going to do the very best job they could to eliminate it. I cannot tell you how much better they made me feel,” Cynthia said.
Cynthia received seven weeks of radiation treatment, along with five chemotherapy treatments. “The staff in the Cancer Center made sure I was supplied with everything I could possibly need prior to my treatments,” Cynthia said. “They gave me medication for pain and anything else to make the treatments easier for me, and help me keep my health up. They did a fabulous job.”
“They continue to follow up very closely with me,” Cynthia said. “I can't say that I’m cured yet, but the tumor is gone. Dr. Khater told me the tumor began shrinking from the first day of treatment,” Cynthia said.
“After my treatments were completed, my very first public outing was going to my book club,” Cynthia said. “I gave them such a glowing report about my care at Froedtert South that one member of the club said it made them all feel more confident to be treated here in Kenosha. I tell people that I received the very highest level of care,” Cynthia said, “and that they should count on Froedtert South for the cancer care they need.”
Some time next summer, many more people in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois will be able to do just that when an expanded and renovated Cancer Center is unveiled at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital.
“Over the last several years, the number of cancer patients we treat has grown dramatically,” Dr. Knight said. “Most patients call a doctor’s office and hear, ‘We'll see you next week,’ or ‘Call your primary care physician.’ That’s not the case at Froedtert South,” Dr. Knight said. “Our default response is, ‘Come see us immediately.’ When we find out about a new cancer patient, we don’t make them wait to see a physician. We see them as quickly as possible, oftentimes the same day. That is unique,” Dr. Knight said.
Unique and very attractive to an increasing number of cancer patients in the Kenosha area. “We have outgrown our Cancer Center space,” said Brian Portilia, Director of Cancer Services at Froedtert South, “and we know why. First, our teams are excellent, but with a personal touch. Patients feel comfortable in our Cancer Center.”
“Second, we are part of the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network,” Brian said. “That allows us to collaborate with specialists and support services that not all community-based hospitals can access, and it connects our patients with world class academic medicine.”
“Third, cancer care has come a long way,” Brian said. “Dramatic advances in how we attack and treat very challenging cancers have significantly increased the number of patients who survive. Longer, ongoing follow up with those patients is another reason that our program continues to grow,” Brian said.
“The expansion and renovation of the Cancer Center will help us provide an even better experience to even more patients,” Brian said. “The first thing patients will notice is that wait times have decreased because we can see more patients simultaneously. Also, we are concentrating services to make it more convenient for patients to receive care in one place rather than going to different locations within the hospital,” Brian said.
“We have significantly expanded the infusion center to provide patients increased levels of privacy, as well as accommodate their friends and family who want to visit or accompany them when they receive treatments,” Brian said. “Also, the new linear accelerator offers Dr. Khater even more options and advanced treatments for patients who require radiation.”
“Our commitment to the communities we serve is really important to us,” Brian said. “I was born here and have spent the majority of my adult life here. The cancer department once existed at the original St Catherine's down by the lake, and we were one of the first departments established at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital. Now, we are preparing to celebrate another important step in the evolution of our cancer program as we constantly strive to provide patients with ever better care, close to home,” Brian said.
“The expansion and renovation of our Cancer Center is the direct result of our philosophical approach to recognizing the barriers cancer patients face, and then helping them navigate through those barriers,” Dr. Knight said. “No one does that as well as we do, and it is exceedingly gratifying to me and everyone on our team when we are able to help patients overcome the challenges and give them the very best cancer care available,” Dr. Knight said. “It motivates us to come in and do it again the next day.”