Dan Hedlund had been married for just three weeks when he received the devastating news. Pain in his left leg that he thought might be from a sports injury turned out to be a bone cancer called osteosarcoma. Dan was days from beginning chemotherapy elsewhere when friends suggested he see the doctors at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).
Now Dan says going to HCI is the best decision he and his wife ever made as a married couple. "There were seven people in that first appointment with us," he says. "It was incredible, the cohesiveness and the teamwork."
Teamwork is the focus of HCI's tumor boards. In these monthly meetings, all the specialists involved in treatments for a given type of cancer share their expertise to come up with a treatment plan for each individual patient. This exchange means every patient receives the best care, aiming not only for survival but the highest quality of life possible.
Dan's treatment began with surgery to replace cancerous bone in his leg with donated bone tissue. But the cancer had spread to his lungs, creating new treatment challenges. Dan's doctor, R. Lor Randall, MD, Director of Sarcoma Services at HCI, brought Dan's case to the tumor board, where you get a "360-degree evaluation," says Dr. Randall. "The more challenging the case, the more value that has."
Together the team of surgeons, radiation therapists, medical oncologists, social workers, and investigative researchers created a plan to treat Dan's cancer with a combination of chemotherapy and surgeries on his leg and his lungs. Dan and his wife had the deciding votes, and when Dr. Randall presented the plan, they agreed.
Several years later, Dan is cancer-free and cherishes each day. He can't participate in all the sports he did before his cancer diagnosis, but he has use of his leg and can play with his young son. He and his wife also have twin boys due in June.
Dr. Randall says the ultimate goal of the tumor board is to give comprehensive care to each patient. "We don't just treat cancer. We treat people with cancer," he says.
The sarcoma team was the first multidisciplinary group to have a tumor board at HCI. Dr. Randall says they're now standard practice throughout HCI.
"There's no question. On the scale of how things could have turned out, I'm very, very lucky," Dan says. And he thanks the tumor board for it. "The brightest minds at Huntsman Cancer Institute sat around a table and discussed me individually," he adds. "And they came up with the treatment plan best suited for me."
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit www.huntsmancancer.org.