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This is a reminder that due to the Juneteenth Holiday; our outpatient clinics and administrative offices will be closed Wednesday June 19th. Please dial 911 or visit the closest emergency department in a life-threatening emergency. 

Oncology

Oncology plays a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of cancer, providing state-of-the-art treatments, enabling early detection, and empowering Veterans to adopt proactive measures for cancer prevention. This interdisciplinary field brings together healthcare professionals, researchers, patients, and advocacy groups in a collective effort to combat cancer and improve outcomes for our Veterans.

Cancer Care Doc

Oncology encompasses a multifaceted approach to understanding, combating, and preventing cancer. Let's break down each aspect:

Study

Oncology involves rigorous research and study aimed at uncovering the complexities of cancer biology, its causes, risk factors, and underlying mechanisms. Researchers in oncology explore various aspects, such as genetic mutations, tumor microenvironments, and the interplay between cancer cells and the immune system. This knowledge forms the foundation for developing effective treatments and preventive strategies.

Treatment

Oncologists specialize in devising personalized treatment plans for individuals diagnosed with cancer. These treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and other innovative interventions. The goal is to eradicate cancer cells, shrink tumors, prevent metastasis, and improve patients' quality of life.

Diagnosis

Accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial in oncology. Oncologists utilize a range of diagnostic techniques, including imaging tests (such as MRI, CT scans, PET scans), laboratory tests (blood tests, biopsies), and advanced molecular profiling to identify the type, stage, and aggressiveness of cancer. This information guides treatment decisions and prognosis estimation.

Prevention

Oncology emphasizes the importance of cancer prevention strategies aimed at reducing the incidence and mortality associated with cancer. These strategies include lifestyle modifications (such as healthy diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation), vaccination (e.g., HPV vaccine for cervical cancer prevention), screening programs (e.g., mammography for breast cancer), and genetic counseling/testing for individuals at high risk of hereditary cancers. Prevention efforts aim to identify and mitigate risk factors, detect cancer at early stages when it's most treatable, and ultimately reduce the burden of cancer on individuals and society.

Cancer Prevention & Screenings

One of the greatest tools we have in fighting cancer is understanding the risks and taking steps to rescue the risk of developing cancer. 

Lower your risk

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated fats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Stop smoking and using other tobacco products. 
  • Become more physically active.
  • Protect yourself from the sun's rays, particularly between 10 a.m. to 2p.m.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Follow recommended vaccinations. 
  • See your doctor regularly. 
Treatment

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are prospective biomedical or behavioral research studies involving human participants. These studies aim to answer specific questions about new treatments and existing interventions that require further investigation and comparison. The VHA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) spearheads the VA's efforts in training employees on emerging technologies. VHA IE's mission is to be "the catalyst for enabling the discovery and spread of mission-driven health care innovation, advancing care delivery and service to exceed expectations, restore hope, and build trust within the Veteran community."

Treatments Available 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. Chemotherapy is most often used to treat cancer, since cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than most cells in the body. 

Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is a treatment using ionizing radiation, generally provided as part of cancer therapy to either kill or control the growth of malignant cells. It is normally delivered by a linear particle accelerator.

Surgery

Surgical oncology is the branch of surgery applied to oncology; it focuses on the surgical management of tumors, especially cancerous tumors.

Blood & Bone Marrow Transplants

Bone marrow transplant (BMT) is a special therapy for patients with certain cancers or other diseases. A bone marrow transplant involves taking cells that are normally found in the bone marrow (stem cells), filtering those cells, and giving them back either to the donor (patient) or to another person.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are prospective biomedical or behavioral research studies involving human participants. These studies aim to answer specific questions about new treatments and existing interventions that require further investigation and comparison. The VHA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) spearheads the VA's efforts in training employees on emerging technologies. VHA IE's mission is to be "the catalyst for enabling the discovery and spread of mission-driven health care innovation, advancing care delivery and service to exceed expectations, restore hope, and build trust within the Veteran community."

Nurse Navigators

Cancer Nurse Navigator Program

When you or your family member is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming.  All at once you are faced with multiple appointments, choices, specialists, and language you may not know. 

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has a program in place to help every step of the way.  Cancer Nurse Navigators are specially trained nurses who are there to help explain cancer care.  They will answer question and will assist with setting up other services a Veteran may need.  

What does a Cancer Nurse Navigator Do?

A Cancer Nurse Navigator offers one-on-one help to Veterans with cancer, their families, and their caregivers.  the Veteran will meet the Nurse Navigator as soon as cancer is diagnosed.  We are here to help work through any concerns about any aspect of their cancer experience.  We understand that waiting can be difficult, and or Veterans will want appointments and answers as soon as possible.  Having cancer can affect all aspects of life: work, family, finances, and your emotions.  The Cancer Nurse Navigator is there to simplify the complex system of healthcare so that the Veteran and their family can focus on care, not the process.  

We can:

  • Provide education about your diagnosis and treatment
  • Connect you to other resources and services you may need
  • Provide the latest information on changes in cancer care
  • Provide education about early cancer detection
  • Have experts review complex cases
  • Follow up after your cancer treatment is complete

Meet the Team

Dessalines, Merline

Merline Dessalines MSN, MHA, RN

Cancer Care Nurse Navigator

VA Charleston health care

Phone:

Email: merline.dessalines@va.gov

Wright, Sonya

Sonya Wright MSN, RN

Cancer Care Nurse Navigator

VA Charleston health care

Phone:

Email: sonya.wright@va.gov

Kettering, Brigitte

Brigitte Kettering MSN, RN, OCN

Cancer Care Nurse Navigator

VA Charleston health care

Phone:

Email: brigitte.kettering@va.gov

Christina Savage LCSW

Military2VA Coordinator

VA Connecticut health care

Phone:

Email: Christina.Savage@va.gov

Levy, Mary

Mary "Heather" Levy BSN, RN

Cancer Care Nurse Navigator

VA Charleston health care

Phone:

Email: mary.levy@va.gov

Lee, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Lee MSN, RN

Cancer Care Nurse Navigator

VA Charleston health care

Phone:

Email: elizabeth.lee4@va.gov