Physicians at the Bismarck Cancer Center recently established outreach clinics in Minot, Jamestown and Dickinson to lessen the travel burden for cancer patients receiving follow-up care after undergoing radiation therapy at the center.
The center serves patients within a 250-mile radius. Physicians and nurses from the center travel to the three outreach clinics once per month to provide office visits for their patients.
"The outreach clinics are an opportunity for us to see any new patients being evaluated for procedures that we do in Bismarck, and patients that we are seeing for follow-up," said John Watkins, radiation/oncologist for the Bismarck Cancer Center.
Submitted Photo - - Dr. John Watkins, left, and Dr. Tarek Dufan, radiation/oncologists for the Bismarck Cancer Center, work in an outreach clinic in Minot to see patients for follow-up visits.
"Now that it's being offered, it's becoming more popular," he said. "As we get more patients in the outlying communities to the north, an increasing amount of them would like to do their follow-up care closer to home."
Judy Johnson, a cancer survivor from Minot, enjoys the convenience of the outreach clinic.
"It's very convenient for me," Johnson said. "I have nothing against Bismarck, but if I do go there, I want to go there for something fun, not just for a doctor's appointment. I really appreciate the facility coming to me, especially with weather like we've had."
"The two doctors that come up from the cancer center are familiar with my case, too, so that makes it really handy," she added.
At the outreach clinics, physicians perform physical exams, review imaging study findings, and determine whether new blood tests or imaging studies need to be ordered. They are also able to perform scans and other tests to check for cancer recurrence.
"In cancer care, follow up care is critical, because if a patient is going to have a recurrence, we want to catch it as early as possible and intervene early," Watkins said. "Following up, whether with their cancer care physician or their family physician, is important. We work hard to collaborate with their family physician and other specialists to make sure everyone is up to date with their information."
The number of follow-up visits cancer survivors require depends on several factors, Watkins said, but in general, patients are followed for a minimum of five years after their treatments have been completed.
For Judy Johnson, who was diagnosed in June of 2008, her follow-up visits have been positive experiences.
"Follow-up is very important to me, because I don't want to go through that again," Johnson said. "We caught the cancer when I first had it, and I think that has a lot to do with my surgery and radiation being successful."
"With all the resources that we have now, if we can catch it soon enough, you don't have to die of cancer," she added.