Osler delivers cancer care close to home
Roger Smith was in Newfoundland supporting his father through the final stages of cancer when he felt the lumps in his neck. “I had an idea it was cancer. My mom passed away from cancer and my dad was dying of cancer, so I was sure it was something,” says Mr. Smith.
He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma several weeks later. “When we found out, it was a relief, because not knowing is sometimes worse.” He received six cycles of chemotherapy and is now halfway through two years of quarterly maintenance treatments.
Mr. Smith’s oncologist is Dr. Stephen Reingold, Senior Medical Oncologist at Brampton Civic Hospital. He’s been treating patients at Osler for 30 years—it was his first job—and remembers the “humble beginnings” of oncology at Osler.
“I was the only oncologist,” he recalls. “From one person to hundreds of people working here—the growth has been remarkable.”
Statistics confirm what Dr. Reingold has witnessed: between 2016 and 2018, the number of chemotherapy doses prepared at Brampton Civic jumped 23% to nearly 35,000. With the regional population expected to grow 63% by 2035 (from 2010), pressures on Osler hospitals will intensify.
The cancer program is not only growing to meet demand, it’s leading in several areas. Osler’s Ontario Breast Screening Program is the top performer in the province. At Peel Memorial alone, more than 250 women are screened each week. Osler’s Diagnostic Assessment Programs (DAPs), help move those with suspected breast or lung cancer from diagnosis to treatment quickly and with one point of contact—a nurse navigator—to support the patient through the process. For breast cancer patients, the average time from referral to consultation with a surgeon is 2.5 weeks compared to the regional average of 4 weeks.
New programs are helping to increase access to care for patients across the GTA. In November, Osler received the first patient under a partnership with Princess Margaret Hospital that allows some patients whose treatment requires an infusion of their own stem cells (an autologous stem-cell transplant) at the Toronto-based hospital to complete their recovery at Brampton Civic. The transplant process requires high doses of chemotherapy that wipe out the patient’s immune system, putting them at risk of serious infection; it may take two weeks for their immune system to recover and receive treatment for the effects of the chemotherapy. Previously, patients would stay at Princess Margaret. The new program provides care closer to home during this vulnerable time. “That’s a big deal,” says Dr. Reingold. “It shows the confidence of the other centres in our facility and the care we provide.”
Once patients complete their cancer treatment, they are referred to Osler’s Survivorship Clinic, where a team including physicians, nurses and social workers monitors patients for recurrence and provides support to transition to life after treatment. In its first year, more than 489 patients have enrolled. The clinic is led by Dr. Martin Chasen, Osler’s Medical Director of Palliative Care.
“As survivorship rates rise, patient needs are different,” says Dr. Chasen. “We empower patients to get more involved in their health as they transition from sickness to health.”