Scully-Welsh expands cancer-fighting team, techniques

Scully-Welsh Cancer Center medical oncologist Dr. Stephen Patterson says “there are a lot of exciting things going on” at the Vero Beach facility, including the onset of what he calls a new, “more seamless” approach to treating bladder cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and kidney cancer.

Yale Medicine calls this approach “genitourinary urology” and says it provides an important advantage to patients because it is means having “a comprehensive, disease-based multi-specialty team to treat these cancers through medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, pathology and diagnostic imaging all under one roof.”

According to Patterson, the arrival of a new urologist, Dr. Carrington Mason, from U.S. Oncology in Texas is another step forward for the IRMC cancer center.

“Dr. Mason does robotic prostatectomies. He also does cystectomies, which are bladder resections. As far as I know, we were not doing any bladder resections within our medical group. We had to send [patients needing those procedures] out to Moffitt or somewhere else. Now we have the ability to treat those patients within our area. Also, having a third urologist gives us increased ability to see more prostate cancer, more bladder cancer and more kidney cancer patients.”

Patterson also brings up the continuing work of Dr. Marc Rose and Dr. Chris Tardiff and their use of “UroNav Trusfusion” for prostate cancer biopsies.

That technique uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) in addition to ultrasound imaging to give physicians a “far superior way” to actually see the prostate gland and to collect tissue samples from specific areas that are not only more accurate but also far less painful to the patient than the biopsy techniques of just a few years ago.

The easy-going Patterson then adds radiation oncologist Dr. Paul Pagnini to his role call.

“Dr. Pagnini,” says Patterson, “is someone who has great depth in prostate cancer radiation and so that’s been a great addition for us, too.”

And while Patterson freely admits radiation oncology is not his area of expertise, he briefly mentions a new approach in that area called “removable brachytherapy.”

Brachytherapy – at least in the past – involved permanently inserting tiny radioactive isotopes directly into the prostate gland to kill cancer cells.

Now, however, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical Health Library, in “temporary brachytherapy,” those isotopes can be placed, by catheter, on or even near the prostate, and then removed the same day.

Since upwards of 20 percent of the patients Patterson sees come to him with prostate cancer problems, he is naturally interested in any new developments in that field.

As any man who’s ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer knows, there are only two recognized approaches to treating that disease. Surgery or radiation.

Patterson says “that’s really a decision we have to let a patient make.

“Whether you get radiation or surgery, the outcomes for the disease are very similar. There is not enough difference between the two to say one should be done over the other, meaning surgery over radiation or radiation over surgery across the board,” though he does admit he “leans toward [recommending] prostatectomies in younger patients and more towards radiation as patients get older.”

In Patterson’s eyes, Scully-Welsh has now reached the point where “we can do what’s called a multidisciplinary clinic where you would essentially have either the doctors rotate around the patient or the patient would go from one room to another room at the same visit. That’s part of our whole vision here. To do that in breast and lung and liver and bladder and prostate cancers.”

Patterson is clearly impressed with the individual skills and expertise of his Scully-Welsh colleagues, including Drs. Mason, Rose, Tardiff and Pagnini, but he adds “we’re better together.”


Dr. Stephen Patterson is a medical oncologist with the Scully-Welsh Cancer Center. His office is at 3555 10th Court. The phone number is 772-226-4810.   

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