London Regional Cancer Program

London Regional
Cancer Program

Offering the latest in chemotherapy and radiation treatment technology, the London Regional Cancer Program’s (LRCP) goal is to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care, support and education.

LRCP continues to be a leader in image-guided radiotherapy, and was one of the first in the world to offer tomotherapy.

More than 400 physicians and staff provide care to patients from across southwestern Ontario, facilitating 160,000 patient visits each year.

Researchers are studying causes of cancer and looking at new treatments that will provide patients the best available choices. Students, residents and fellows learn alongside some of the best and brightest in the field.

Patients have access to specialized pharmacy services, group and individual support programs, education resources and financial assistance to help with some unexpected personal expenses related to their treatment.

ABOVE (left to right): Drs. Lauren Vanderspek, Jeff Cao, Essam Senan, Tracy Sexton, Glenn Bauman, Krystine Lupe, George Rodrigues, and Jasper Yuen in 2006 – some of the residents and medical staff who shaved their heads to support Tracy Sexton who was losing her hair during chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.

When the doctor becomes the patient

Dr. Tracy Sexton is living proof that doctors can make good patients. "But," she concedes, "sometimes knowing a lot about something is not a good thing."

Dr. Sexton is referring to her battle with breast cancer that began in 2006 after she discovered a lump during a routine self-exam. Entering her final year of resident training at LHSC’s London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) to become a radiation oncologist, finding a lump was, says Dr. Sexton, somewhat ironic but not unexpected given her mother’s history with the disease.

"Everything you know about cancer flashes through your head. Treatments, statistics, and an in-depth knowledge of everything your patients have been through that you now face yourself," she says.

With a cancer diagnosis confirmed by her colleagues at the LRCP, Dr. Sexton wasn't willing to let the subsequent chemotherapy treatments deter her from graduating on schedule with her peers. A fighting spirit and, she says, a stubborn streak are a part of her DNA, and just two short weeks after her mastectomy surgery Dr. Sexton was back to working full-time.

"I had been in school for a very long time. I was 36. I wanted to graduate and begin the next stage of my life," she says, explaining her motivation. A year after her diagnosis, Dr. Sexton finished her residency training and became a full-time radiation oncologist at the LRCP.

Just as stubbornness is part of her DNA, so is the desire to provide excellent care. Dr. Sexton is always seeking innovative ways to ensure her patients are receiving the best treatment possible. One way to do this was through an opportunity to improve how the radiation program and Children’s Hospital coordinated treatment and care for young cancer patients.

Dr. Sexton determined that every Thursday would be a paediatric day, where she attends the weekly paediatric oncology rounds at Children’s Hospital to get a better understanding of the patients, their issues, and who is likely to require radiation treatment.

"Because I'm involved in their care before they actually require radiation treatment, by the time I see the patient I know everything I need to know about their case," she explains.

Through this work with Children's Hospital, Dr. Sexton created the Paediatric Radiation Oncology Program that offers education to staff on what role radiation oncologists play in their patient's care, and even ensures all paediatric cancer patients receive a tour of the LRCP before they undergo treatment.

"I was afraid of some of the procedures that went along with getting radiation treatment, but after Dr. Sexton and the team explained what to expect it wasn’t so scary any more. I know my parents really appreciated the support, too."

~ Karissa Melnyk, 11, Paediatric cancer patient

Now cancer-free for almost four years, Dr. Sexton is busy continuing LHSC’s tradition of care for adult breast, gastrointestinal or genitourinary cancer patients who require radiation therapy. Meeting with each patient to determine the best course of treatment, she continues to see all of these patients in her busy follow-up clinics, including a monthly clinic in Woodstock, Ont. to save patients there the travel to London.

Dr. Sexton says her own experience with cancer has certainly influenced her ability to empathize with all of her patients.

"I've lived through it. I know," she says. That knowledge, coupled with the compassion inherent in her DNA, "helps me treat my patients to the best of my ability."