New surgeons allow multidisciplinary head and neck tumor care from diagnosis through follow-up

With the addition of a pair of surgeons, Norton Cancer Institute Head and Neck Tumor Program is now a fully integrated multidisciplinary team caring for patients from diagnosis through treatment to follow-up.

With the addition of a pair of surgeons, Norton Cancer Institute Head and Neck Tumor Program is now a fully integrated multidisciplinary team caring for patients from diagnosis through treatment to follow-up.

Paul A. Tennant, M.D., and Mia Jusufbegovic, M.D., are the program’s first head and neck oncology surgeons. Previously, we worked from patient to patient with surgeons outside the program, including Dr. Tennant. Dr. Jusufbegovic is a Louisville native who has recently completed her head and neck surgery fellowship at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The arrival of these two outstanding surgeons expands our scope, improving the patient experience and the care our patients receive. The program’s primary focus remains: access, access, access.

We see patients in our clinic on Wednesdays and Fridays at Norton Cancer Institute – Downtown. A patient always will be seen on the next available clinic day the patient wants to attend. If a referring provider calls us about a patient on Thursday, we will see that patient on Friday, and the patient will have access to the whole team, not just one of the doctors.

Many patients have significant transportation issues or other barriers to care. Creating a clinic where they can see all their providers in one place, in the same visit, can mean the difference between getting care and not getting care. As a convenient, multidisciplinary clinic, we’re breaking down barriers to care.

In addition to the convenience of seeing multiple specialists in a single day, patients benefit from different specialists reviewing their case and collaborating with the patient on the best options for care. It’s like getting a second, third or more opinions at once.

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In addition to our new surgeons, we have medical oncologists and radiation oncologists specializing in head and neck cancers, a dedicated speech-language pathologist, a lymphedema therapist and nurse navigators. Our patients also have access to a behavioral oncologist, speech pathologist and nutritionist.

The program offers our patients surgery, medical and radiation therapies, and state-of-the-art treatments including immunotherapy and biologic therapies.

Being a multidisciplinary clinic reduces the time from diagnosis to treatment by about a third — about two weeks instead of the six-week national average.

Shortening the time from diagnosis to treatment makes a big difference. Evidence shows that every treatment delay beyond four weeks decreases the cure rate by 1 percentage point per day.

Beyond that, moving from diagnosis to treatment more quickly gives our patients peace of mind knowing they are being seen and receiving care.

Aaron C. Spalding, M.D., Ph.D., is a radiation oncologist and executive medical director of Norton Cancer Institute.


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