Residents learn from cancer conference

Hundreds of Miami Valley residents gathered Saturday to learn about advances and best practices in cancer care at Premier Health’s Collaborating Against Cancer conference at the Dayton Convention Center.

The event had a dual purpose, with clinical seminars for medical professionals and other sessions aimed at the general public, all emphasizing a motto — “it’s cancer’s turn to be scared.”

Premier Health President Mary Boosalis called it “a day of hope” and tied the event to President Barack Obama’s “moonshot” initative to eliminate cancer, playing off the push to land on the moon in the 1960s.

“Years ago, many people thought the moon shot was impossible … and today, many other people think it’s virtually impossible to eliminate cancer,” Boosalis said. “But with so many advances being made each day, others believe it will come in our lifetimes. … We want to be part of the solution.”

Local residents heard presentations on cancer screenings, resources for caregivers, and efforts to fight the most resistant cancers.

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“The message I took was to get prescreened for everything your insurance will pay for — pap smears, colonoscopies, the works, to prevent cancer,” said Sherrill Smith of Trotwood. “There are tools out there, if you take advantage of them.”

Medical professionals heard presentations on clinical staging in breast cancer treatment, plus cancer prevention, with doctors going into such detail as the impact of different cultures’ diets.

Some of the speakers were from the MD Anderson Cancer Network, with whom Premier Health recently partnered to expand its treatment options.

Charles Bane, chairman of the Premier Health Cancer Institute, said there are many new developments in cancer treatment, but the challenge is to figure out how to use all the new tools. He said the partnership with MD Anderson gives local physicians more one-on-one access to experts who can help guide decisions and offer insight on challenging cases.

About 40 percent of people in the United States will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes, but statistics from the Ohio Department of Health offer some optimism. ODH’s 2015 Ohio Cancer Report shows both the number of new cancer cases and number of fatalities declined over the most recent 10-year period.

Obama’s “moonshot” initiative called for a unified effort to beat cancer, and other hospitals are engaged as well, as Kettering Health Network is finishing an outpatient cancer center, and Cincinnati Children’s will soon open a proton therapy center.

Saturday’s conference drew close to 600 people, making it one of Premier’s biggest events in recent years. Jennifer Arnold, a cancer survivor, doctor and star of TV’s “The Little Couple,” encouraged cancer patients to “look fear in the face,” while balancing that with the need to accept help and accept the reality that their lives will change, “and that’s OK.”

“There are so many people who don’t know what they don’t know,” said radio host and cancer survivor Gloria Shanahan. “I may be really educated as an advocate for cancer prevention, but an event like this brings so much knowledge to the community at large.”

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