Valley Regional Cancer Center - Oncology Peru, Illinois
VALLEY REGIONAL CANCER CENTER OPENS ITS DOORS TO ILLINOIS VALLEY
Valley Regional Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging, medical and radiation oncology services to cancer patients in the Illinois Valley area. The cancer center leverages services and specialists from Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, St. Margaret's Hospital in Spring Valley, Illinois CancerCare and Valley Radiation Oncology.
Valley Regional Health Services, a joint venture of Illinois Valley Community Hospital and St. Margaret’s Hospital, offers state-of-the-art PET/CT and laboratory diagnostic services. The on-site 16-slice PET/CT scanner incorporates some of the most advanced PET/CT imaging technology available today. This new technology assists the physicians in the staging of cancer and aids in surgical and radiation treatment planning. Additionally, the PET/CT scanner has the unique ability to monitor the effectiveness of the oncologist’s treatment plan which enables them to make adjustments during the patient’s course of treatment.
Medical oncology services are provided by Dr. Greg Gertsner and Dr. James Knost of Illinois CancerCare of Peoria. The medical oncology team is actively involved in groundbreaking research of novel therapies for the treatment and prevention of all forms of cancer. Illinois CancerCare offers FDA-approved chemotherapy protocols as well as an experienced multidisciplinary team which includes a nurse practitioner and a certified oncology nurse.
Radiation oncology services are spearheaded by Dr. Thomas Zusag of Valley Radiation Oncology. Valley Radiation Oncology uses a state-of-the-art Varian Clinac® linear accelerator which enables the radiation oncology center to offer its patients the most sophisticated forms of radiation therapy, including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). By combining daily imaging to confirm the size and location of the tumor before each treatment session, our radiation oncology team is able to more precisely treat tumors. As a result, the patient’s normal healthy tissue is exposed to less radiation, thereby facilitating the preservation of healthy tissue and minimizing potential side effects and complications.
With a coordinated multidisciplinary approach of chemotherapy and radiation therapy available under one roof, patients will have the best chance for achieving optimal treatment results with the added convenience of a local center. The combined experience of these physicians and their health care teams rival larger institutions that provide similar services.
Valley Regional Cancer Center makes it easy for patients to receive the highest quality of care close to home. Free and accessible parking is available at the center. If you need additional help, please contact us at (866) 964-5864.
4391 Venture Dr.
Peru IL 61354
Our highly-trained clinical staff works together to create a unique treatment plan for every patient. We are by your side every step of the way from your diagnosis to recovery and work closely with you and your physician to ensure the best possible outcome.
Gregory Gerstner, MD - Medical Oncology & Hematology
Dr. Gregory J. Gerstner is Board-Certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Hematology. After completing his undergraduate education at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, he attended medical school at Southern Illinois University. Dr, Gerstner completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and his Oncology/Hematology Fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Areas of specialty include; benign and malignant hematology and lung cancer.
“Oncology is an exciting, ever-changing field that allows me to be on the cutting edge of scientific developments and provide up-to-date treatments for my patients while giving me the opportunity to form close interpersonal relationships.” - Dr. Gerstner
James Knost, MD - Medical Oncology & Internal Medicine
Dr. James A. Knost is Board-Certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. He graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and attended Louisiana State Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr, Knost completed his internal medicine internship and residency at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where he also completed his medical oncology fellowship.
Dr. Knost was an assistant professor in medical oncology at West Virginia Medical Center at Morgantown, West Virginia. This was followed by two years as an expert appointment at the National Cancer Institute’s Biological Modifier Response Program (monoclonal antibody section) at Frederick Cancer Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland.
Areas of specialty include; colon, head/neck, prostate, renal, ureter, bladder and GI non-colon.
“I just enjoyed taking care of patients with cancer and felt at the time — and still feel — that there is a potential to cure the majority of patients with solid malignancies.” - Dr. Knost
Thomas Zusag - Radiation Oncologist
Dr. Thomas Zusag received his medical degree with honors from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed his internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. His residency and fellowship were both completed at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in St. Louis, Missouri.
Prior to joining us Dr. Zusag has been practicing at Raymond G. Scott Cancer Care Center in Geneva, IL and Rush University Medical Center where he served on many committees involved with cancer treatment, leadership, clinical information, and patient care. His special areas of expertise include lung and gynecologic cancers, all forms of Brachytherapy, medical physics, image fusion, precision in treatment delivery, and any technically complicated or challenging treatment problems. During his career Dr. Zusag has published over 40 articles in medical journals and has been invited to perform multiple presentations on radiation oncology.
Dr. Zusag’s ongoing research interests include PET-CT fusion treatment design and lung cancer monitoring, tumor response assessment tools, visual 3D treatment planning, applicator design in gynecologic brachytherapy, and biologically modeled treatment planning in gynecological implants.
An Environment of Care, Wellness and Support
Valley Regional Cancer Center treats patients as family. Every member of our care team, from our Medical Assistants to our Radiation Oncologists, understand how cancer affects you and your family.
We provide a circle of wellness, care and support to ensure your treatment will result in the best possible outcome. With our experience, compassionate approach and advancements in treatment innovation, we believe we are making a difference in the fight against cancer.
Contact us today to arrange for a consultation or to request additional information.
What is Medical Oncology?
Medical oncology involves treating cancer and cancer related conditions with the use of medication and other specialized treatments. A medical oncologist is a specialist who can diagnose and treat cancer using drugs such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted agents. They specialize in the treatment of many cancers, including solid tumors such as colon, breast cancer, as well as hematologi malignancies such as lymphoma and leukemia. There is active research in this field and new drugs and treatment combinations become available on a regular basis.
Medical oncologists evaluate the patient in conjunction with other doctors such as a surgeon and radiation oncologist to affirm the most appropriate drug combinations to treat the cancer. Medical oncologists will monitor patient progress after treatment and can also assist in managing pain and disability or recommend comfort or Hospice care. Our medical oncology clinic has access to in-house diagnostics and lab services, which enables the physician to rapidly assess blood abnormalities and make more immediate decisions on therapy.
Medical oncologists also specialize in hematology, which is blood, the blood-forming organs, and blood related diseases. Blood diseases affect the production of blood and its components, such as blood cells, hemoglobin, blood proteins, blood clotting, etc. Our physicians who specialize in hematology are called hematologists. With the ability to treat hematologic cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, medical oncologists can utilize a variety of treatment methods to develop the optimal treatment plan. See Medical Oncology Treatments.
During the initial consultation, the patient will be interviewed and examined by a medical oncologist/hematologist. To help us understand the patient's medical status, we will need to obtain copies of medical records, health history, prescribed medications, and recent medical visits with other specialists, and if applicable, any biopsy reports. We will review the information with the patient and family members and answer any questions they may have. Patients may continue their routine prescription medications unless advised otherwise by their physician.
Not all patients that routinely see a medical oncologist have cancer. Patients are often referred to a medical oncologist/hematologist for hematologic malignancies or non-cancerous blood disorders. If this is the case, once the physician diagnoses the condition, he/she will determine the appropriate treatment, if any, and the planned follow-up protocol. The diagnostic evaluation may include laboratory testing, imaging such CT or PET scans, or procedures such as biopsies of masses or bone marrow biopsies.
Depending on the type and stage of cancer, we will often schedule the patient to see both a radiation oncologist and a surgeon. At that point, the medical oncologist will consult with each of the other specialists that will be involved in the patient's cancer care and they will collaboratively develop a patient-specific treatment plan.
After the initial consultation and diagnosis and in the event you may need chemotherapy, our care team will explain how the treatment will progress and what to expect from us along the way. Patients may also need special intravenous catheters inserted to help better deliver your treatment. Our patients also will have access to a financial counselor who can explain the costs associated with cancer care. In the event of having out-of-pocket expenses, the financial counselor will help the patient and their family secure funding that may be available, regardless of your income level. Additionally, there are various support groups and cancer related programs available for patients and their families.
Our certified nursing staff and physicians will explain the chemotherapy protocol that the patient will undergo with them and their family, as well as review any potential side-effects and important things to remember. Treatment will typically take place at this center where the staff will support the patient throughout the course of their treatment. They will also review important dietary tips and answer any questions. Patients are encouraged to ask any and all questions regarding their treatment plan, side effects, and any other issues that may develop during the course of their care. Our staff and physicians will always be available to address these issues.
Post-Treatment Care and On-going Support
During and after cancer treatment, several follow up appointments may be needed so that the doctor and care team can continue to assess the patient's progress and recovery. The medical oncologist typically coordinates all cancer-related issues including addressing treatment questions, side-effects and long-term follow-up care. They also help patients coordinate appointments with other doctors such as the radiation oncologist and surgeon and any other appointments that are needed. See Cancer Resources for more information.
Treatment - Radiation Oncology
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, involves the use of ionizing radiation to treat many forms of cancer. It can be delivered both internally and externally. The goal of all radiation therapy is to give the tumor a lethal dose of radiation while limiting the exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue. Before treating with radiation, sophisticated dose calculations are made in order to contour the shape and intensity of the beam, which will help facilitate a precise dose to the targeted area. Radiation is a painless treatment and does not result in hair loss.
There are many forms of external radiation delivery systems. Traditional equipment delivers 3-D conformal and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), which can create high dose volumes that are concave in shape and spare normal tissues that are close to and surrounded by the tumor.
During each field of treatment, the dose delivered is contoured by the multi-leaf collimator (a device that consists of a number of moving “fingers” or “leaves”), that position themselves dynamically in order to block portions of the primary beam and create a desired shape. IMRT is supported by Image-guidance, which involves mapping the internal organs, treatment area and nearby structures by using 2-D and 3-D imagery so that the clinician can make adjustments for more accurate targeting. See Radiation Technologies.
During the initial consultation, the patient will be interviewed and examined by a Radiation Oncologist. To help us understand the patient's medical status, we will need to obtain copies of medical records, health history, prescribed medications, and recent medical visits with other specialists, and if applicable, any biopsy reports. We will review the information with the patient and family members and answer any questions they may have. Patients may continue their routine prescription medications unless advised otherwise by their physician.
Developing a Treatment Plan
Once it is determined that radiation therapy is the best way to treat the cancer, treatment planning begins. A treatment plan, which is a collection of measurements, imagery and dosing calculations, will be developed specifically for each patient so that the post-treatment results are optimal. This custom-made plan is influenced by overall health, type and stage of cancer. It also takes into consideration information from other specialists. Patients will undergo a special CT or PET scan called a "simulation". The imagery and information acquired during the simulation will allow the physician to target the tumor and avoid the other organs and healthy tissues nearby. The treatment will take place daily over several days or more. In order to ensure that the patient is in the exact same position for every treatment, specialized equipment may be used to help hold the patient in place. Small ink marks may be drawn on the skin to assist the therapists with body alignment.
Starting Daily Treatments
When the planning is complete, the patient will be treated with one or more machines that will deliver the radiation to your prescribed location. These technologies generate high energy x-rays or electrons that destroy tumor cells. Other systems are designed to deliver radiation through the use of isotopes and catheters. Radiation therapists, who are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), administer the daily treatment under the supervision of the Radiation Oncologist. They record and document treatment progress and run tests on the treatment machines daily to ensure that they are working properly. Most radiation treatments are given five times a week, Monday through Friday.
Post-Treatment Care and On-going Support
Most people undergoing radiation treatment are able to continue with their normal activities. Some may need to adjust their level of activity temporarily during treatment, if recommended. Patients are encouraged to check with their doctor before starting any exercise or fitness program during this time. Good nutrition during therapy is essential to promote healing and recovery, and the oncology nurse or nutritionist can help determine the best approach. The patient is weighed regularly during radiation therapy to monitor health and any weight loss. Patients should do their best to eat a normal, well-balanced diet with three or more regular meals. Smaller, more frequent meals and snacks may also be suggested. Patients should also consult with their doctor about the use of multivitamins and other dietary supplements. Nutrition information is also available through the oncology nurse.
In addition to the care and information that patients receive, we can also provide information for local support groups in the community. Many local and national organizations cater to all cancer types such as the American Cancer Society, or more specifically, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, who provides support and information for women with breast cancer and collects donations for research and treatment.
See Cancer Resources.