4/18/2012 8:33:52 AM
When Joe Querry took a nap one summer afternoon, he never expected to wake up and make a life-changing discovery: a lump he found in his neck that day would soon be diagnosed as cancer that had invaded his lymph nodes.
Over the next two years, Querry received a range of treatments, some of it available close to his Bainbridge home and some—thanks to a longstanding partnership between Lancaster General Health and the Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center just a train ride away to Philadelphia.
Querry, 56, is one of hundreds of Lancaster-area patients who have received second opinions or specialized cancer treatments through the Penn Cancer Network. As one of 14 partners in the network associated with Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, LG Health continues to provide most of its patients with thorough cancer care in a local setting. But for those cases when a patient is facing an exceedingly rare cancer or needs a complex treatment, oncologists can turn to the extensive resources and experience provided by specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center.
“Our goal is to provide for 90 percent of our patients 90 percent of the time within the LG Health system,” says Beth Horenkamp, MD, of Hematology/Oncology Medical Specialists at LG Health. “They go out through the network for the specific piece of care they need, and then they come back to us.”
For Querry, who was referred to Horenkamp by his family doctor, it initially looked as though his treatments at LG Health would be enough to keep his cancer at bay. Horenkamp sent him for a biopsy that confirmed testicular cancer. After having his testicle removed, he went through three months of chemotherapy.
But Querry suffered what Horenkamp described as a “rapid reoccurrence” and needed additional care by January 2010. She referred him to Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, where hematology/oncologist David Vaughn, MD, recommended a stem cell transplant. Because such procedures are done relatively rarely, they are not offered at LG Health. A consultation with Edward Stadtmauer, MD, co-director of Penn’s bone marrow and stem cell transplant program, gave Querry and his wife renewed hope.
“I never felt sorry for myself,” said Querry, whose treatment at Penn included a week-long procedure during which doctors separated his own healthy stem cells from his blood and froze them for preservation. After another round of chemotherapy that “almost killed him” and did, indeed, kill his cancer cells, Querry’s doctors intravenously returned the healthy stem cells.
Doctors at Penn created a follow-up plan and were immediately in touch with Horenkamp, who resumed leadership over his care. More than two years later, Querry is still in remission and visits Horenkamp’s office near Park City Center every six weeks for a check-up.
Horenkamp said she and her fellow LG Health oncologists and surgeons have built relationships with cohorts at Penn that allow them to e-mail questions on behalf of their patients or get experiential advice when medical journals can’t provide the right guidance in a difficult case.
Through the Penn Cancer Network, experts from Penn also present continuing medical education programs four times a year, deepening local doctors’ expertise on topics such as lung cancer or reconstruction following breast cancer.
Horenkamp estimates 5 to 10 percent of her patients have some contact with the Penn CancerNetwork, often just for a second opinion. Even for those who will never need the care of a Penn specialist, knowing that their own doctors have the support of one of the nation's foremost cancer centers is a reassuring part of treatment.