Finding new means for early detection and treatments of gynecologic cancers has been a focus for the researchers and clinicians of MCI. Our Gynecologic Oncology Program is designed to provide comprehensive, compassionate care for women with gynecologic cancers in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. We offer expert treatment for patients with ovarian, cervical, uterine, endometrial and other cancers of the reproductive system.
At MCI, an impressive list of successes and medical breakthroughs is fostered by a highly collaborative environment in which researchers and clinicians work together to translate leading-edge research into live-saving treatments for cancer patients. These collaborative efforts allow us to develop and apply new interventions more rapidly and incorporate breakthrough research designed to improve prevention, detection and treatment. In gynecologic oncology, this research has focused on:
• New methods of cancer screening and early detection
• Investigation of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer
• Targeting the molecular pathways of aggressive ovarian cancer cells
• How ovarian cancer metastasizes and its microenvironment
One of our recent breakthroughs is a revolutionary new gynecologic cancer-screening tool. Developed by MCI physician-scientists Dr. Michael Finan and Dr. Rodney Rocconi, in collaboration with MCI scientist Dr. Lewis Pannell, this diagnostic test targets endometrial and ovarian cancer, which attack some 60,000 American women each year. Prior to this breakthrough, there was no viable screening test for endometrial and ovarian cancers.
Our promising research in early detection of endometrial and ovarian cancer resulted in two patents, a 2010 Alabama LAUNCHPAD AWARD and the formation of a biotech company who has licensed this promising early detection technology.
In addition to our work in discovering innovative early detection methods, MCI continues to be at the forefront of technological advances. We have performed over 600 robotic hysterectomy cases, using the da Vinci robotic surgery system. Our focus on minimally invasive approaches to treating gynecologic cancers is evident in our statistics, with over 60 percent of all surgical cases completed laparoscopically.
Ovarian cancer is the most serious of all gynecologic malignancies since it is frequently a “silent cancer” with few early symptoms. It is commonly diagnosed in its advanced stages. Common symptoms include pressure or fullness in the pelvis, abdominal bloating, changes in bowel or bladder habits, which are progressive, and persistent digestive problems such as upper abdominal discomfort, distention, and gas pains. Since these symptoms are vague and non-specific, it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages. The proper diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer is best accomplished by specialists in Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Finan, Dr. Rocconi, Dr. Scalici and their staff work as a team to provide the patient with the latest techniques in treatment. Primary treatment is surgical debulking followed by aggressive chemotherapy. Dr. Finan also participates in research protocols through the National Gynecologic Oncology Group, as well as by working with other cancer specialists in the community and the University of South Alabama. This offers patients access to the latest and most innovative methods of treatment. Working as a team with the other members of the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), funded by the National Cancer Institute. the Gynecologic Oncologist provides patients the full range of treatment for ovarian cancer.
Dr. Finan, Dr. Rocconi and Dr. Scalici may also be involved in the management of pelvic masses where there is a suspicion of ovarian cancer. Many patients who are found to have an ovarian mass or an ovarian cyst, may like to have a gynecologic oncologist perform their surgery. This service provides an additional measure of assurance that, if cancer is detected, the proper specialist will be involved at the initiation of treatment. Additionally, genetic testing referrals are provided for patients with a strong family history of ovarian cancer. Click here for more information about ovarian cancer.
Cancer of the uterus generally is evident with abnormal uterine bleeding. Most uterine cancers begin in the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus, and endometrial cancer is the most common of all gynecologic malignancies. Uterine sarcomas that develop in the wall of the uterus are less common. Common symptoms of uterine cancer include abnormal bleeding after menopause or irregular bleeding before menopause. Dr. Finan, Dr. Rocconi and Dr. Scalici provide the latest in early diagnosis as well as the full range of treatment options. Many patients can be cured by surgery alone; however, the Gynecologic Oncologist works closely with the Radiation Oncologists when radiation therapy is needed. Participating in national studies of the latest treatments through the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, the Gynecologic Oncology Group, Dr. Finan provides patients with access to innovative treatments for advanced and recurrent uterine cancer. Participation in clinical trials via the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) by the National Cancer Institute offers patients access to the latest in research in cancer treatment.
Endometrial cancer is the most common type of uterine cancer and although the exact cause of endometrial cancer is unknown, increased levels of estrogen appear to play a role. Estrogen helps stimulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus and studies have shown that high levels of estrogen in animals result in excessive endometrial growth and cancer. Most cases of endometrial cancer occur between the ages of 60 and 70 years, but a few cases may occur before age 40. Diabetes, infertility, obesity and beginning menstruation at an early age (before 12) can increase the risk of endometrial cancer. A pelvic examination is frequently normal, especially in the early stages of the disease. Changes in the size, shape, or feel of the uterus or surrounding structures may be seen when the disease is more advanced. Treatment options involve surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The Gynecologic Oncology team strives to provide the latest, most advanced cancer care for patients that are challenged with endometrial cancer.
Pap smears may detect precancerous areas on the cervix and women should follow national guidelines for cancer screening. Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic malignancy that can be prevented by regular screening. Screening with the Pap smear has dramatically reduced the incidence of cervical cancer by detecting problems in the pre-cancerous phase. Dr. Finan, Dr. Rocconi and Dr. Scalici provide patients with the latest and most up to date diagnostic and treatment methods for abnormal Pap smears and invasive cervical cancer. Treatment of invasive cervical cancer may involve a range of options from conservative surgery with preservation of fertility (when appropriate) through aggressive surgery sometimes combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy when indicated. Dr. Finan, Dr. Rocconi and Dr. Scalici are leaders in cervical cancer treatment in the Gulf South and they participate in research studies for the management of early stage as well as advanced and recurrent cervical cancer. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the Gynecologic Oncologist works closely with the Radiation Oncologists and the other members of the CCOP, providing patients with the latest and most up to date treatment for advanced and recurrent cervical cancer.
Founded and initially funded by Dr. Michael Finan, the late Dr. Eddie Reed and Dr. Rodney Rocconi, the Gynecologic Cancer Research Endowment was created in order to support basic research, clinical trials and outreach. This endowment solicits donations from private and corporate entities as well as through various community fundraisers, among them our annual “GO RUN” Gynecologic Oncology 5K and Fun Run, which attracts thousands of participants and has raised in excess of $200,000 to support gynecologic cancer research at MCI.
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