Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Summer 2003

Bloodless Medicine
A Survivor's Story
The Joy of Life
Improving the Lives of Women
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Improving the Lives of Women

Pennsylvania Hospital's gynecologic oncologists treat one of the largest volumes of gynecologic cancer cases in the Delaware Valley, including cancers of the ovary, uterus and cervix as well as less common cancers and other complex gynecologic conditions. “Our goal is to improve the care and treatment of women with all types of gynecologic cancer,” says Thomas Randall, MD, director of gynecologic oncology at Pennsylvania Hospital.

As such, physicians and surgeons have been perfecting minimally invasive surgical techniques and bloodless medicine for gynecologic cancers. “These advances should improve recovery times and reduce the risk of infection,” says Dr. Randall.

Laparoscopic Surgery
More than 46,000 women each year are diagnosed with endometrial cancer. While it is the most common gynecologic cancer, endometrial cancer also offers one of the highest cure rates – approximately 70 percent of endometrial cancers found in the early stages can be cured. Standard treatment for endometrial cancer is often an abdominal hysterectomy. But thanks to advances in minimally invasive surgery, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital is one of the few hospitals to offer a laparoscopic approach to a hysterectomy for women with endometrial cancer.

“The main difference between a hysterectomy performed laparoscopically and an open abdominal hysterectomy is the size of the incision,” says Dr. Randall. “The laparoscopic procedure requires four small incisions approximately 1/2-inch in size compared to the open abdominal incision,which is typically six to seven inches. With a smaller incision, you avoid the complications associated with a larger incision like infection or hernia.” Laparoscopic procedures are becoming more common with other gynecologic cancers as well, including cervical and ovarian cancer.

Bloodless Medicine
It may not be surprising that heavy menstrual cycles can make a woman somewhat anemic, causing fatigue and/or shortness of breath. However, in women who are preparing for gynecologic surgery, the blood loss associated both with their menstrual cycles and the surgery can drop their hemoglobin to very low levels. For those patients who undergo gynecological surgery and who wish to avoid blood transfusions for personal or religious reasons, the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital can help.

“We see two to three gynecological surgery patients each week,” says Patricia Ford, MD, medical director of the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery. “These patients do not want to receive blood transfusions either because they are fearful of contamination or they are often Jehovah's Witnesses.” Whatever the reason, the Center ensures that all staff honors the patient's decision.

The Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery prepares these patients for surgery by increasing their hemoglobin levels through the use of intravenously delivered iron and/or other medications that promote the growth of red blood cells. If the surgery is scheduled, patients usually begin bloodless treatment about three to four weeks prior. Patients' hemoglobin levels are then monitored during and after surgery to reduce any chance of anemia.

For more information about gynecologic oncology services at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366). You can also request an appointment online.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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