“It doesn’t get much better than to be able to provide an oncology patient treatment and pain relief here at home.” – Dr. Brian Anderson, Neurosurgeon
Early in 2020, in a late Monday afternoon interview in between appointments, Drs. Brian Anderson and Vitor Pastorini came together to share a few stories about how their collaboration treating oncology patients has yielded much-welcomed — even remarkable — outcomes for patients suffering from the debilitating pain that cancer brings. Dr. Anderson, a neurosurgeon, has been practicing at QMG since mid-2019, and Dr. Pastorini has been practicing here since 2016.
In late 2019, it was in a meeting of QMG oncologists that Dr. Pastorini learned how one of our newest providers could help cancer patients here.
“Brian came to one of our meetings to share information about his specialized training. One of the things he talked about was how implanting a pain pump can help patients,” Dr. Pastorini explained. “We had a few patients with metastatic disease through the spine, where pain is one of the biggest issues, especially for palliation. That sparked a light. We immediately started talking and started this collaboration. We have patients now we have sent his way, and we have seen a remarkable improvement for the patients’ quality of life.”
During the conversation, both physicians emphasized how their multidisciplinary approach within QMG is providing patients the customized care they need in their individual fights against this all-too-common disease.
“In addition to now having Dr. Anderson here at QMG, one of our biggest triumphs, over bigger places, is our timeliness for response and to get patients seen in order to get treatment started,” Dr. Pastorini explained. “Because we are smaller, we move much faster and talk more among ourselves than doctors in bigger institutions. I can call Dr. Anderson, and he will be able to see the patient the same day or the day after, or vice versa. I think we do that tremendously well.”
“Every time you have to take one of those cases outside the institution, you lose communication quality significantly,” Dr. Anderson added.
The Best View
One story the two physicians shared explained the suffering of a young oncology patient, with acute leukemia and leptomeningeal disease, whose headaches were incapacitating. Through their collaboration, Dr. Anderson implanted an Ommaya reservoir to help relieve the young patient’s pain.
“In this case, the patient was getting treatment at Barnes, but it was intrathecal, and her headaches continued to be a major problem. She was on IV narcotics extensively, and she was just in a fog all the time,” Dr. Anderson said. “Even though she was getting the appropriate chemo intrathecally, it didn’t seem like she was, clinically, feeling better. And once we got the Ommaya reservoir in and started treating the brain intrathecally through the ventricle, her change for the better was more than I even imagined.”
When Dr. Anderson first saw her, he described the patient as looking like “she was at the end of things.”
“Then, I saw her two weeks post-op, she had a smile on her face, she had makeup on, and she had no headache. It was remarkable. Now she doesn’t have to endure two-hour car rides multiple times per week. We are treating her here, managing her pain here at QMG,” he added.
Based on the result of this case and others they have collaborated, and are collaborating, on, the two physicians continue to see an auspicious future for oncology patients and other patients suffering from other diseases in the Quincy region.
“As oncologists, they may see the world in one way, and as surgeon, I may see it as another. Both of those perspectives are necessary. But the best view is to combine our visions. When everyone is offering what they bring to the table, remarkable collaboration can happen. It has happened,” Dr. Anderson explained. “This is really just doing our jobs. It’s me being willing to be that person to help address these cancer-specific things, whereas, if I was not here, our oncologists may have to look elsewhere, outside QMG. We really are a destination now for cancer care.”
Dr. Pastorini affirmed the close-knit collaboration is facilitating how QMG providers are treating oncology patients and delivering individualized care for them.
“We called it a ‘Cancer Institute’ because of all these options we have. It’s more than a cancer center,” Dr. Pastorini noted. “It’s not just treating your cancer, but treating you as a person, your symptoms, and restoring your quality of life, what our patients have as the ‘unparalleled care experience.’”