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Making Victories Happen

Recently diagnosed, the man says he never expected his first year of retirement to be consumed with cancer treatment. It’s his first appointment with his oncologist.

“I was hoping to play golf,” he says. “Think I’ll ever play again?”

His wife sits by his side holding his hand. She wonders about chemotherapy side-effects -- how sick will he get?

A grown daughter joins in, taking notes. She’s done extensive research on her dad’s cancer and has a page of questions.

For Dr. Matthew Tinguely, medical oncologist at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center, it’s a familiar scene.

“When people come in, especially if the diagnosis is recent, they have a million questions and often several family members come along. This is an extremely important time” he says. “I always keep in mind that in treating cancer you don’t just treat the patient. You treat the family, too. The disease affects everybody in profound ways.”

By listening attentively, Dr. Tinguely learns what matters to the patient and family. This intimate connection helps set the stage for a journey marked by victories both small and large. Today’s advances in medicine, technology and knowledge offer every reason for hope.

New doors open

Dr. Tinguely chose medical oncology for the simple reason that he wanted to help people. He completed his oncology fellowship and joined Sanford in 2010.

“Cancer care is becoming very individualized. That’s exciting!” he says, then gives examples:

    * Lung cancer. “In the past we had just a few regimens to choose from. We’d give the patient a few rounds to see what worked,” says Dr. Tinguely. “With today’s knowledge about mutational differences and the genetic composition of the cancers themselves, we’re better able to choose the treatment most likely to work, both in fighting the cancer and in minimizing side-effects.”
    * Melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer). “For a long time we had little that could help in treating melanoma,” says Dr. Tinguely. “Now we have two new drugs to choose from. We’re using both of them here.” The identification of the BRAF mutation led to this milestone.
    * Advanced prostate cancer. “We now have hormone manipulations that have been shown to prolong survival even after chemotherapy has failed,” says Dr. Tinguely.

The newest approach in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer involves a vaccine that ultimately enables white blood cells to specifically target the prostate cancer cells. This, too, is now available at Sanford.

An enlightened approach

Not all advances stem from technology. Some relate to philosophy of care. In choosing where to practice, Dr. Tinguely recognized two key factors that set Sanford apart:

    * Size of staff. “With 12 medical oncologists, you interact with each other and help each other stay on top of what’s happening in each type of cancer,” he says. “That clearly benefits patients.”
    * Excellent support for patients and families throughout the cancer journey -- and after. “It’s a team approach that includes psychologists, financial counselors, social workers, specially trained nurses, survivorship programs and more,” he says.

Victories every day

Dr. Tinguely learned lessons about cancer at a very young age. He was a second grader growing up in Fargo when his grandpa battled gastric cancer.

“Even in illness, my grandpa continued to be a very kind, considerate, gentle person. And he continued to take time for us grandkids,” he says. “In retrospect, it’s amazing how he could go through so much, yet still have concern for others.”

Now, in caring for his patients and their families, Dr. Tinguely see victories like these every single day.

“They inspire me and push me to do my very best,” he says.

Posted Date: December 2011