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Arming the Community Against Cancer
Stony Brook cancer specialists educate on cancer prevention, new treatments

STONY BROOK, N.Y., March 27, 2014 – Stony Brook University Cancer Center specialists shared their knowledge with the community on the latest advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of colorectal, lung, ovarian and other cancers that afflict millions each year at an educational event on March 22. Whether the 175 plus individuals came to understand more about prevention or new medical technologies at Stony Brook, the community found the event informative and inspirational.

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Stony Brook’s Robert Matthews, MD, talks about the advantages of simultaneous PET/MRI at the “Innovations Improve Colon and Rectal Cancer Treatments” session.

Attendees learned about targeted treatment approaches, new research, and use of emerging technologies at Stony Brook Medicine that are paving the way for better diagnostics and therapies. For example, they heard about how clinical trials for cancers of the blood have transformed treatments leading to cures, why genetic findings point to hereditary risks for breast and ovarian cancers, how a virtual colonoscopy is used to detect colon cancer early, and why use of a simultaneous PET-MRI at Stony Brook, the only one on Long Island, helps cancer specialists better detect cancer, assess stage of disease, and enhances surgical planning. 

“Stony Brook cancer researchers and clinicians are generating new knowledge and using technologies to drive our cutting-edge treatments against cancer,” said Yusuf A. Hannun, MD, Director of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine, and the Joel Strum Kenny Professor of Medicine. “We developed this open forum to further educate the community about cancer, provide a venue for them to meet our doctors and staff, ask questions, and let them know the Cancer Center is here for them.”

“Some of the sessions included information about how our genetics and lifestyle habits can both contribute to developing cancer,” said Josh Shi, 56, of Stony Brook, who was most interested in cancer prevention and early detection due to his family’s history of cancer.

“The more we know about cancer and what is new with treatments, the more we are ready to fight it and understand what our doctors are talking about,” said Anna Nawrocki, 48, of Mount Sinai, an ovarian and breast cancer survivor who has been treated by Stony Brook’s gynecologic and breast cancer multidisciplinary treatment teams since her first diagnosis in 2007.

“I think it is amazing what can be done now, how doctors can target certain cancers and the technologies that are constantly improving,” added Nawrocki, who is now cancer free.

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Attendees found the play, “The Catalysts,” a series of vignettes depicting the cancer journey, inspiring and entertaining. Pictured: Lauren Kaushansky, director and playwright (in back); from left are the actors Deborah Perez; and Nicole Donofrio and Kriti Jindal, Stony Brook University students and members of the WMHO Youth Corps Theater Troupe.

“Learning about new technologies for detecting and treating cancer is important to me and the reason I came to this educational event,” said Fran Navaretta, of Port Jefferson Station, 74, who has been treated for breast cancer twice at Stony Brook, first on her right breast then five years later on her left.

“The sessions were informative, and for the organizers to also include a play that brought out the roller coaster of what it is like to be a cancer survivor with a focus on support, not sympathy, was  an insightful part of the program,” added Naveretta, who cited a line from the play about survivor’s keeping their identity – “You can take away my breast, my hair, but you can’t take away my shoes.”

Stony Brook Medicine, in collaboration with the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO), presented the play, titled “The Catalysts,” a theatrical collage inspired by artwork created by cancer survivors, caregivers and their families. Excerpts from these visual narratives and experiences were compiled for the book, Lilly Oncology on Canvas, and transformed into a performance piece by Lauren Kaushansky, Lecturer in the Department of History, and the play’s director and playwright.

Performed by members of the WMHO Youth Corps Theater Troupe, the vignettes depicted a variety of experiences around the “cancer journey.” Each scene reflected the voice and narrative of a different artist. Scenes ran the experiential gamut of the journey – from the reality of diagnosis, to grief, perseverance, and the need for laughter along the way.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer cases are expected to rise 57 percent worldwide in the next 20 years. This skyrocketing increase is primarily because of the world’s growing and aging population. Stony Brook cancer specialist believe the projected rise will require a heavier focus on prevention and early detection in the ongoing war against cancer.

The Cancer Center will plan additional educational programs for the community.

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About Stony Brook University Cancer Center:

Stony Brook University Cancer Center is Suffolk County’s cancer care leader and a leader in education and research. With more than 20,000 inpatient and outpatient visits annually, the Cancer Center includes 12 multidisciplinary teams: Breast Cancer; Colorectal Cancer; Gynecologic Oncology; Head, Neck and Thyroid Oncology; Lung Cancer; Melanoma; Neurologic Oncology; Orthopaedic Oncology and Sarcoma; Pediatric Hematology/Oncology; Stem Cell Transplantation and Hematologic Malignancy; Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology; and Urologic Oncology. The cancer program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as a Teaching Hospital Cancer Program and received the Commission’s Outstanding Achievement Award. The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center is the first center in New York State to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. To learn more, visit www.cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu.