Gynecologic Cancer

HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Regional Cancer Center, along with Prevea Health, are pleased to offer advanced hope to our region through the expertise of the region’s first gynecologic oncologist practicing exclusively in northeastern Wisconsin. Dr. Jonathan Tammela, MD, FACOG is both a surgeon and a medical oncologist. Dr. Tammela offers seamless comprehensive care to his patients in a private, women-centered treatment setting or will coordinate care with specialists throughout the region to ease the burden of travel for his patients. Dr. Tammela provides women with advanced surgical expertise including robotic, minimally invasive surgery. As the principal investigator for GOG clinical trials at the HSHS St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute, Dr. Tammela offers patients advanced treatment options not found elsewhere in the region.

Numerous documented studies have shown the benefits of having a gynecologic cancer treated by a fellowship trained, gynecologic oncologist:

  • Ovarian cancer mortality rates are reported to decrease by 25 percent when surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist compared to an obstetrician/gynecologist or general surgeon.
  • A gynecologic oncologist is 2.5 times more likely to accurately diagnosis the stage of gynecologic cancer and, in turn, develop a proper treatment plan.
  • Surgical therapy by a gynecologic oncologist for early cervical cancer may eliminate the need for postoperative radiation therapy and any associated side effects.


Risk Factors

All women are at risk for developing gynecologic cancers.

Knowing your family history can increase your chances of early diagnosis and can help you take preventive action. Screenings and examinations conducted regularly can result in the detection of certain gynecologic cancers in their earliest stages, when treatment is more successful.


Symptoms

Cervical
Early cervical cancers usually don’t have any symptoms. All women should begin pap testing about 3 years after they have intercourse, but no later than age 21. Testing should be done every 1-2 years. After age 30, women who have had 3 normal pap test results in a row may get tested every 2-3 years.

Ovarian
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often ignored because they can occur with many other conditions. Persistent symptoms, or those that are a change from normal, should be evaluated by a physician. These symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary urgency or frequency. There is no effective routine screening test for ovarian cancer (like mammograms). A pap test does not find ovarian cancer. A pelvic exam should be a routine part of a woman’s regular health exam.

Uterine/Endometrial
Signs and symptoms of uterine cancer include unusual spotting or bleeding not related to menstrual periods, a watery pink or white vaginal discharge or pain during intercourse. A pap test does not find endometrial cancer. Women at high risk should discuss enhanced surveillance with their physician.

Vulvar
Pre-cancerous vulvar conditions without symptoms can be found during regular gynecologic exams. Symptoms such as vulvar itching, rashes, moles or lumps could be related to pre-cancer and should be evaluated by a physician. A pap test does not screen for vulvar cancer; however, an examination of the vulva is done at the same time.


Diagnosis

Diagnostic testing varies. Some diagnosis can be made on an outpatient basis by obtaining a biopsy of tissue, which is then examined by a pathologist. Additional imaging studies may also be used. Other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, can only be positively identified through a surgical procedure. A gynecologic oncologist is the most qualified professional to diagnose and treat all gynecologic cancers.


Treatment

A cancer specialist, such as a gynecologic oncologist, should treat gynecologic cancers. Northeast Wisconsin's only Gynocologic Oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Tammela, works closely with physician assistants, Martha Kralovec and Kristin Falkenberg, as well as a multidisciplinary team including radiation oncologists and oncology nurses, to develop a personal treatment plan for every patient. Patients benefit from the coordination of services and team approach to decisions, which ensure the best treatment outcomes.

Gynecologic cancer treatments may include:

 

Clinical Trials

Dr. Jonathan Tammela, MD, FACOG serves as principal clinical trial investigator for the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) provided through the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Each patient seen is carefully evaluated to determine if other, leading edge, treatment options are available through our Cancer Research Institute. We maintain a continuously updated menu of the latest treatments available only through clinical trials, so we can offer you the latest breakthroughs in cancer treatment, and more reasons for hope.

HSHS St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute is a top national research center, with more than 30 years of experience in conducting clinical trials. More than 700 different clinical trials have been provided to more than 2,800 patients. The ability to conduct research studies opens up new avenues of hope, as they provide our patients with more treatment options.

Research compares the best-known treatment with new treatments, which have a possibility of improving current outcomes. Standard treatments used today are a result of past clinical trials.

In cancer research, clinical trials are designed to answer questions about new ways to:

  • Treat cancer
  • Find and diagnose cancer
  • Prevent cancer
  • Manage symptoms of cancer and/or its treatment

Whether or not to take part in a clinical trial is always the patient’s decision. All treatment options should be considered.

One important benefit of participating in a clinical trial is the possibility of being part of a breakthrough discovery in the treatment of cancer. Clinical trials help people who may get cancer in the future. But whether or not to take part in a clinical trial is always the patient's decision. All treatment options should be considered.

Through the St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute, patients of the St. Vincent Cancer Collaborative have access to 130-140 clinical trials at any given time. Many of these trials are also available at our affiliated locations in the Regional Cancer Collaborative.

To find out more about clinical trials, call the St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute at (920) 433-8889.


Gynecologic Cancer Care Team

Throughout your journey to wellness, you will be meeting with specialists in many different fields working together to provide you with the very best care possible. Coordination of your care occurs between members of this treatment team both individually, or as a group in meetings we call “Tumor Board”. Each week, St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center hosts meetings to allow our team to collaboratively develop individualized treatment plans to meet the precious needs of our patients. Surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, radiologists, pathologists, clinical research professionals, nursing and other supportive staff all attend these tumor board meetings. All of these experts are sitting together, reviewing your history, pathology, and imaging studies and discussing the most appropriate treatment course. Between these meetings, this multidisciplinary team continues to work together one on one as needed, to meet the individual needs of their patients, according to a timeframe suitable to you.

You can be assured this team of skilled experts is working closely together to develop the best treatment plan possible to treat your cancer and to give you all treatment options available.

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