How advancements in treatment have helped combat cancer

Merry Tetef, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center

Merry Tetef, M.D., Medical Oncologist and Hematologist, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center


Jack Jacoub, M.D., Hematologist/Oncologist, Medical Director, Thoracic Oncology Program, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center

Jack Jacoub, M.D., Hematologist/Oncologist, Medical Director, Thoracic Oncology Program, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center

Every hour, an estimated 150 people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. The lifetime probability of an invasive cancer is 44 percent for men and 38 percent for women. But thanks to significant medical advances and a greater emphasis on preventive measures and healthier lifestyles, cancer death rates continue to decline.

Smart Business turned to prominent medical oncologists-hematologists, Merry Tetef, M.D. at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center and Jack Jacoub, M.D., medical director of thoracic oncology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, to learn more.

What are some of the risk factors?

Preventive measures like not smoking, a healthy weight and diet, and plenty of exercise can help reduce your risk of cancer. While other risk factors — age, ethnicity, family history and inherited genes — cannot be changed, MemorialCare’s genetic counseling services help patients determine their risk for diseases, including several cancers that can be inherited.

Screenings such as pap smears help detect cervical cancer, colonoscopies can identify colon cancer and PSAs may determine the likelihood and treatment of prostate cancer. Laws that restrict smoking and education on associated risks are stemming lung cancer.

Can these advances be accessed locally?

MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial — nationally accredited as Comprehensive Community Cancer Programs — offer the latest technologies, therapies and treatments. These include PET/CT, low-dose CT, automated whole breast ultrasound, MRI and dedicated breast MRI; sophisticated robotic surgery; the region’s only hospital-sited CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system and advanced radiation oncology.

MemorialCare Breast Centers are long-time leaders in diagnosis and treatment of breast cancers and our physicians are highly regarded in every cancer specialty. Patients can access ongoing cancer research protocols and a wide variety of support services. Through the interdisciplinary treatment planning conferences, specialists review new or difficult cases and develop treatment plans suited to each patient’s specific needs.

What can be expected in the future?

Vaccines like those used to prevent cervical cancer in women may be effective in other cancers as well. Emerging treatment technologies, techniques and drug discoveries continue to help us more accurately treat cancer, and with fewer side effects. Myriad cancer therapies and treatments are in varying stages of development as researchers continue to learn more about cancer cell biology and new treatment options.

Pharmaceuticals are being created to better kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply. There is hope that therapeutic vaccines might help activate a patient’s immune system. Gene sequencing looks for specific DNA mutations that occur with different types of cancers and may lead to new treatments. Physicians are beginning to use knowledge gained by research to look at an individual’s family history and DNA to predict cancer risk. Personalized screening for those at higher risk might help diagnose cancer at its earliest stage. Doctors will be better able to customize treatment, choosing the most effective treatment and avoiding those that will not work.

Can businesses improve employee health?

Businesses can help by encouraging their workforce to take advantage of cancer screenings. Offer wellness, healthy foods and exercise programs. Partner with your local hospital cancer center to offer on-site education. Our website provides online risk assessments and tools as well as information on cancer prevention, screenings, diagnosis and treatments.

MemorialCare Health System, a not-for profit, integrated delivery system, includes six top hospitals — Long Beach Memorial, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial, and Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills and San Clemente; medical groups — MemorialCare Medical Group and Memorial Prompt Care; the Independent Practice Association (IPA) Greater Newport Physicians; retail health; ambulatory surgery centers; and numerous outpatient facilities throughout the Southland.

Merry Tetef, M.D., is a medical oncologist and hematologist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. Jack Jacoub, M.D., is medical director of thoracic oncology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by MemorialCare Health System