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How Do You Find Quality Cancer Care?

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it can feel as if your whole life has been turned upside down. During this confusing, scary time, it’s completely normal to want to take action quickly to get rid of the disease.

However, the early decisions you make are very important. Step back for a moment and take a deep breath. Do your research. Talk to loved ones. Find the best quality cancer care that’s right for you and your specific situation.

Here to discuss the best questions to ask when searching for quality cancer care is Stephen Edge, MD, FACS, FASCO. He is the Vice President, Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
How Do You Find Quality Cancer Care?
Featured Speaker:
Stephen Edge, MD
Stephen B. Edge, MD, FACS, is the Vice President of Healthcare Outcomes and Policy and a Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Surgical Oncology and Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (RPCI) in Buffalo, NY. Dr. Edge also serves as a Professor of Surgery at the University at Buffalo.

Learn more about Stephen B. Edge, MD

Bill Klaproth (Host): Getting a cancer diagnosis is scary, so where do you find the absolute best care and what does quality cancer care mean? Here to talk with us about finding quality cancer care is Dr. Stephen Edge, Vice President, Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Edge, thanks for your time. So, let's jump right in. What does quality cancer care mean?

Dr. Stephen Edge, MD, FACS, FASCO (Guest): Quality cancer care, face value at the first level means that you should get the right cancer treatment at the right time, and that you get it done right the first time. There’s good evidence that people don’t necessarily have that happen all across America and that the quality – the actual treatment that people get varies quite widely.

Bill: Ummm hmmm. That’s certainly a process, and like you said, getting that right cancer treatment at the right time –

Dr. Edge: Ummm hmmm.

Bill: – is very critical. So, what criteria does US News and World Report use when ranking cancer centers as they do a big ranking every year?

Dr. Edge: The US News program looks at many factors about cancer and other types of programs. Of course, they rank things other than cancer. They look at the services that are available at the organization, ranging from nursing services to specialized radiology or imaging services, surgical specialties, intensive care availability, and a number of other factors about the services that are available. They look at the number of patients that are treated. They look at the severity of the conditions that are being treated so they have some measure of how complex the cancer cases are, and they look at how well you do in terms of the overall outcome of your cancer patients.

Bill: Well, Roswell Park has been named a US News Best Hospital for cancer, ranking number 33. Congratulations. What went into achieving that, Dr. Edge?

Dr. Edge: Well, Roswell Park has, for really generations, been one of the leading cancer centers in America. The absolute where we fall on these rankings varies by some of the specifics of the measure, but we achieve being on these rankings because we have a coordinated cancer program that provides true multi-disciplinary care. Meaning, multiple experts are available to a patient without having to go from office to office, where we have that all integrated into a program with the very best doctors and staff who can provide the most comprehensive services across all of cancer care, and, in addition, it’s tied to a program that’s actively involved in understanding how we can improve care both through research and understanding cancer and to research how we understand how can better deliver care.

Bill: Definitely a journey and a long process and great to achieve those rankings, and you talked about specifics. Can you talk about some specific achievements, like being named in the top 4% of all cancer hospitals in the US?

Dr. Edge: Well, Roswell Park over the last decade has been leading the way, and urologic surgery is an example. With some of the most advanced techniques for doing surgery, we were one of the pioneers in doing robotic surgery for prostate cancer. Something that there's actually now spread around the country and is routine, but when it was first being developed, we were one of the leaders. The leader in that group is one of the world’s authorities on extending robotic surgery into treating bladder cancer. We have experts in neurosurgery who are both developing surgical techniques as well as vaccines and treatments related to brain tumors. We have a gynecologic oncology team as one of the world’s leading in terms of developing immunotherapies. We have a new group of medical oncologists who are among the world’s leaders in the movement towards immunotherapy for lung cancer and melanoma and other types of cancers. Honestly, the list goes on and on. You can go into almost every disease group here and find leading people who are doing cutting-edge research.

Bill: Absolutely. In fact, Roswell Park Cancer Institute is the only center in New York State outside of New York City to attain top 50 status. So, when someone is evaluating care, why is the NCI designation so important when making a decision?

Dr. Edge: Going to a comprehensive cancer center provides certain advantages to people with cancer because the doctors there are a, among the world’s leading people in their field. They are writing the textbooks and writing the papers and doing the research, but just as importantly, they work in a team of people that are all working together rather than being in an individual office and referring people from one private doctor’s office to another. They all work on a comprehensive team approach towards cancer care so that they can discuss cases and be sure that people are getting the optimal treatment. So, I happen to be a surgeon, and I happen to do breast cancer surgery, but when I see someone who would be better off treated with drug treatments before surgery, I don’t have to tell them, we’ll arrange the time to have you or I’ll refer you to the doctor down the street, and you’ll have to call that office to get an appointment. I walk down the hall and talk with my colleague and frequently, they’ll come in and see that patient that day. And that happens in all the disease site groups here so that we have this level of communication between the specialists that leads to people getting the optimal care and in the optimal timeframe.

Bill: So, that level of communication is one of the things that make Roswell Park Cancer Institute special outside of the rankings. What else makes Roswell Park so special?

Dr. Edge: You know, there's a couple of things, I point my finger at here. One is the staff and not only the physician staff, but the attitude of the people who work here, and patients tell us this all the time when they come through our doors. Of course, they're walking into an organization that says Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and they know they're walking into a cancer hospital when they come through our doors. It’s pretty intimidating and pretty scary, and then they find a place full of people who are upbeat who understand how difficult cancer is for them, and whose only reason for being here is to help them with that journey. We don’t do heart disease. We don’t do obstetrical care. We don’t do, you know, diabetes care. I mean, we certainly can take care of those issues in people who come to us for their cancer issues, but everybody who works here wants to work here. They don’t come here, and they're not forced to work at Roswell Park. They’re not forced to work with cancer patients. So, people see a very different attitude among the staff. So, first and foremost, I think the people who work here beyond the physicians. Secondly, I think people find that they're here at a place where the cutting-edge things are being done. We do the standard things exceedingly well, but we also have the staff who are making the discoveries that are changing care. And I’ve learned over the years, that the people who are at that cutting edge actually give the best standard care as well because they know what’s going on. They know where things are going in the future, and I guess, thirdly, we’re an educational institution. We are always here providing education to the next generation of people who are going to be doing the scientific research and doing the care, and you know, as an attending doctor who has to work with our trainees and people we’re educating, it keeps us on our toes. Because if we do something that they don’t think is what they’ve read about, they aren’t bashful. They ask us questions. So, being in that kind of academic environment keeps everybody on their toes and everybody up to date.

Bill: So, staff, cutting-edge discoveries that are changing care, and that academic environment. Dr. Edge, thank you so much for your time today; we appreciate it. For more information, you can visit That's You're listening to Cancer Talk with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.