What to Expect
The Bone and Soft Tissue Oncology Program offers the most up-to-date advances in screening methods, diagnostic tools, surgical techniques, and medical and radiation therapies. The overall goal of the program is to ensure that patients receive leading-edge, integrated specialty care for bone or soft tissue cancer.
Until recently, most musculoskeletal cancers were considered to be rapidly fatal. However, advances in chemotherapy and radiation therapy have dramatically raised cure rates. Diagnostic advances have permitted the identification of separate malignant entities, which in turn has led to more specific treatments directed at individual tumor types. In addition to improved cure rates, limb saving operations can now be performed in over 80-90% of these tumors.
It is important that we obtain your pertinent medical records including applicable radiology reports, lab reports, pathology slides, and medical summaries. You should bring copies of these reports to your first appointment. Whenever possible you should obtain the original x-ray films and pathology slides from your doctor. If you have had surgery related to bone or soft tissue cancer, you should also bring a copy of the operative note.
Please bring the following to your clinic appointment:
- physician's name, address and phone number.
- patient identification card if you have been seen before at UNC
- insurance card and any other related forms required by your insurance company
- list of allergies and medications you are taking with the dosages.
- imaging studies and reports
- pathology slides and reports
- operative notes
Depending on their situation, patients may see an orthopaedic oncologist, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist or a combination of these specialists during their first clinic visit. They may also meet with nurses, radiologists, and technicians and have diagnostic tests and scans.
If the patient is seen by more than one specialist, these physicians will discuss the patient's case and work together to develop a treatment plan. The primary physician managing the patient's care will discuss the treatment plan with the patient. Patients may be offered the opportunity to participate in a clinical research trial if it appears that this would be a good option. If surgery is required, a date will be set. Patients requiring chemotherapy will be instructed as to what to expect and how to manage care at home.
If, after being evaluated by a radiation oncologist radiation treatment is planned, the treatment, procedures and side effects will be explained. The patient may be scheduled for simulation. This process involves using x-ray images to plan radiation treatment so that the target treatment area is precisely located and marked. After simulation, a radiation therapist gives the patient the date and time when treatment will begin.
Arrangements may be made for the patient to meet support service providers. These might include a social worker, a financial counselor, a chaplain, a patient counselor, or a nutritionist, depending on the patient's needs and interests. Patients will have an opportunity to visit the Cancer Patient/Family Resource Center where they can obtain information about their diagnosis and learn about support groups and resources for individuals with cancer.
The nurse coordinator will follow the patient with the managing physician through all of his/her care at UNC. She will ensure continuity in the patient's care if s/he needs to see multiple cancer specialists and receive different types of treatment. Letters will be sent to the patient's local physician to inform him/her of the patient's treatment plan and status. Patients are referred back to their local physician for continuing care when appropriate.