Since our Cancer Services program began in 1990, St. David’s Medical Center has provided quality, compassionate care to more than 15,000 cancer patients in Austin and Central Texas.
Our program is accredited with commendation by The American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer. This voluntary accreditation is part of our commitment to ensuring that all our patients have access to a full range of medical services from a multidisciplinary team that includes surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and other cancer specialists.
Cancer is a complex group of diseases, and our multidisciplinary approach results in improved cancer care and better patient outcomes. This collaborative approach begins with the Cancer Committee, which provides leadership, sets goals, monitors program activity, and evaluates patient treatment plans and survival rates. Our Cancer Team Conferences provide a forum for patient consultations to determine appropriate treatment plans and, by sharing information, helps physicians stay abreast of the latest developments in cancer care.
While there is no single test to diagnose all forms of cancer, the Cancer Services program at St. David's Medical Center has experienced physicians and highly-trained technicians with access to all the latest imaging and laboratory technology used to detect and localize cancer, including:
Computerized Tomography (CT) - A computerized axial tomography scan is more commonly known by its abbreviated name, CT scan or CAT scan. It is an x-ray procedure which combines many x-ray images with the aid of a computer to generate cross-sectional views and, if needed, three-dimensional images of the internal organs and structures of the body.
CT Virtual Colonoscopy - Virtual colonoscopy is a technique that uses a CAT scan to construct virtual images of the colon that are similar to the views of the colon obtained by direct observation through optical colonoscopy.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - A special radiology technique designed to image internal structures of the body using magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce the images of body structures. An MRI is painless and has the advantage of avoiding x-ray radiation exposure. There are no known risks of an MRI. The benefits of an MRI relate to its precise accuracy in detecting structural abnormalities of the body.
Bone Scan - Bone scanning is a nuclear medicine test to evaluate damage to bones and detect cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bones.
Ultrasound - An ultrasound test is a radiology technique, which uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures of the body.
PET Scan - A highly specialized imaging technique that uses short-lived radioactive substances to produce three-dimensional colored images of those substances functioning within the body. PET scanning provides information about the body's chemistry not available through other procedures, such as metabolic activity or body function.
- Mammography - The goal of screening mammography is to detect cancer when it is too small to felt by a woman or her physician.
- Breast Biopsy - Breast biopsy is the removal of abnormal-appearing breast tissue which is sent to the laboratory for analysis.
- Capsular Endoscopy - The patient swallows a small capsule that contains a camera and wears a recording device that stores camera images. After about 8 hours, the capsule travels through the small intestine. This test is helpful in diagnosing tumors of the small intestine.
Bronchoscopy - Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope.
Laboratory Services - Both inpatient and outpatient laboratory testing services are available at St. David's Medical Center.
Pathology - The pathology department utilizes staging criteria to assist your physician in determining the type of cancer whether the cancer cells have spread. The pathology report is important in determining the most appropriate course of treatment.
If cancer is detected, staging is the process of finding out how much cancer there is in the body and where it is located. Physicians use this information to plan treatment and to help determine a patient's prognosis. Cancers with the same stage usually have similar outlooks and are often treated the same way. The cancer stage is also a way for doctors to describe the extent of the cancer when they communicate with each other about a patient's case…Learn more
Many factors determine the cancer treatment options available, including the type of cancer, its stage, and individual factors such as age, health status, and personal preferences. The four major types of treatment for cancer are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and biologic therapies.
Surgery - Surgery is often the first treatment option if the tumor can be removed from the body. Sometimes only part of the tumor can be removed. Radiation or chemotherapy might be used to shrink the tumor before or after surgery.
Radiation - Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside the body or from radioactive materials placed directly in the tumor. The procedure for giving external radiation is similar to that of getting an x-ray, and is painless, although side effects may occur.
Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy (or "chemo”) uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Usually, the drugs are given intravenously or orally. Chemotherapy drugs then circulate through the bloodstream, which allows them to reach cancer cells that may have metastasized (spread) from the original tumor.
Biologic Therapies - Other, newer kinds of treatments include hormone therapy, which is sometimes used to treat specific kinds of prostate and breast cancers, and immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the cancer patient's own immune system to help fight the cancer.
Each patient is a vital part of the cancer care team. If you have cancer, don't be afraid to ask questions. Make sure you understand your treatment options so you can make an informed decision about which choices are best for you.
Before starting treatment, ask about the goal of treatment. Is the purpose of the treatment to cure the cancer, control it or treat symptoms? Sometimes the goal of treatment can change.
The type of treatment a person receives will depend on the type and stage of cancer, the age of the patient, and their medical history. Each drug or treatment plan has different side effects. It is hard to predict what side effects will occur, even if patients receive the same treatment. Some effects can be severe and others fairly mild. While it is true that some people have a tough time with cancer treatment, there are also many who manage fairly well and continue to work throughout treatment.
Temporary side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of hair, and mouth sores. Many of these side effects can be treated or relieved. Because chemotherapy can damage the blood-producing cells of the bone marrow, patients may have low blood cell counts. This can result in an increased chance of infection (due to a shortage of white blood cells), bleeding or bruising after minor cuts or injuries (due to a shortage of blood platelets), and fatigue (due to low red blood cell counts). For these reasons, cancer care teams manage the side effects of chemotherapy carefully.
Because everyone's body is different, each person responds differently to chemotherapy. Most of the side effects of chemotherapy disappear once treatment is stopped. For example, hair lost during treatment nearly always grows back once treatment ends. In the meantime, most patients are able to use wigs, scarves, or hats while they have hair loss.
Radiation treatments are much like x-rays and do not cause any pain. Side effects from radiation therapy can be milder than those from chemotherapy. The most common side effects are skin irritation and fatigue. Fatigue is common when treatments go on for several weeks. Many people work throughout the course of their radiation treatments, though it is common for people to adjust their schedules or work fewer hours until they feel better.
Sometimes people are not able to keep on working during treatment because of extreme fatigue or other side effects. One of the most important things you can do for a co-worker with cancer is to help them maintain a flexible schedule. Cancer treatment and its side effects can be unpredictable; expect your co-worker to have good days and bad days.
This is a common myth and a dangerous one. People who believe this might not follow important treatment recommendations that can save their lives. It is easy to understand the source of this myth. Often people diagnosed with cancer have never had any symptoms or pain. It is only after the treatment starts that they begin to feel sick. It is true that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can cause distressing symptoms. However, the side effects fade soon afterward, and the treatment can be life-saving.
There are times when every cancer patient questions their commitment to the difficult journey of treatment and its side effects. Sometimes they can get discouraged by the uncertainty of treatment, and wonder if it's worth it. This is normal. It may help to remember that every year cancer treatments get more and more effective, and doctors are learning more effective ways to control their side effects.