Today, more than half of all patients diagnosed with cancer can be cured, and many others will live long, meaningful lives even with their disease. But getting the correct diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment right from the start is crucial.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, our sole focus is cancer, and it has been for more than a century. Our doctors have unparalleled expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of cancer, and they use the latest technology and the most innovative, advanced therapies to increase the chances of a cure. The close collaboration between our doctors and our research scientists also means that new drugs and therapies developed in the laboratory can be moved quickly to the bedside, offering patients improved treatment options.
Individualized Expert Treatment
We also recognize that each patient is unique and each type of cancer is different — the best treatment for one patient may not be right for another. So you can rest assured that the treatment recommended at Memorial Sloan Kettering will be the best one for you. And while we are best known for our leading-edge cancer therapies, we take particular pride in the compassion and dedication of our doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff.
We are proud of our designation as a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center. In this section, you will find information about our expertise in diagnosing, treating, and caring for cancer patients.
A Team Effort
We have a unified approach to cancer care, with teams of doctors who work together to guide each patient through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. We have a team devoted to diagnosing and treating breast cancer, another focuses on colorectal cancer, yet another concentrates on brain tumors, and so on. These teams have a depth and breadth of experience that is unsurpassed. Using this approach, the treatment plans reflect the combined expertise of many doctors — surgeons, medical oncologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists. This approach also ensures that patients who need several different therapies to treat their cancer will receive the ideal combination.
Getting the Correct Diagnosis
Our radiologists use advanced imaging technology to detect cancer. In addition to MRI and CT, our radiologists offer cutting-edge imaging technologies. These include combination PET/CT imaging, which can more accurately detect cancer and pinpoint its exact location in the body, and functional MRI, which can define the location of a brain tumor in relation to areas of the brain that control language, movement, vision, and other important functions. This information helps neurosurgeons remove tumors without disrupting critical brain functions.
Memorial Sloan Kettering pathologists are involved in patient management right from the beginning. They analyze tumor samples — some 40,000 annually — to determine a precise diagnosis and the extent of disease (called staging), even if this information has been collected and reviewed at another institution. Reports from our pathologists are essential to deciding the best course of treatment. In addition, tissues removed during surgery are rapidly evaluated by our pathologists, who can then communicate directly with surgeons in the operating room via video and audio links. Increasingly, new technology enables our pathologists to predict a tumor's aggressiveness or its response to certain forms of therapy, as well as to identify genetic abnormalities in some tumors, which can then direct the course of treatment.
Unparalleled Surgical Oncology Expertise
Recent studies have shown that, for many cancers, patients have fewer complications if they have surgery at a hospital that performs high volumes of these operations and if the surgery is performed by a surgeon with expertise in the procedure. You can be sure that our surgeons are among the most experienced cancer surgeons in the world. Over the years, they have pioneered many surgical innovations, including laparoscopic surgery for the treatment of many cancers. This type of surgery, which uses several small incisions rather than one large incision, results in less post-surgical pain and a faster recovery.
Our surgeons are also at the forefront of developing surgical procedures to reconstruct the breast, colon, tongue and mouth, and the rectum following cancer surgery and new techniques to spare organs and preserve function.
More Than 160 Medical Oncologists
It is often a medical oncologist who follows a patient through the course of treatment and during recovery, to ensure a continuum of care. Our medical oncologists are leaders in developing new chemotherapy drugs that are safer and more effective than standard therapies. They can also help patients manage the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and fatigue, so that patients can lead relatively normal lives while receiving chemotherapy. Increasingly, our medical oncologists employ sophisticated technologies, such as immunotherapies or vaccines, often in combination with chemotherapy, to more effectively treat cancer.
Leaders in Radiation Therapy
Memorial Sloan Kettering's radiation oncologists pioneered intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which allows higher, more effective doses of radiation to be delivered to tumors while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs. While initially used for the treatment of prostate cancer, it is now being used here to treat cancers of the head and neck, lung, brain, liver, and breast, as well as lymphomas, sarcomas, and some pediatric cancers. Our doctors have also developed the use of radiation therapy with chemotherapy, which makes tumor cells more sensitive to the effects radiation, enhancing the success of therapy.
Nursing and Supportive Care
Our nurses work together with doctors and are an essential part of the healthcare team. Their support, encouragement, and deep sense of caring bring tremendous comfort to our patients and their loved ones. Our specially trained oncology nurses care for patients before, during, and after surgery; help manage clinical trials; and educate patients about what to expect when they go home from the hospital. They also communicate with family members to address their needs and concerns. To help ensure a continuum of care, patients are typically cared for by the same nurses throughout their stay.
For some patients, the psychological effects of cancer can be overwhelming. Memorial Sloan Kettering has specially trained psychiatrists and psychologists who can help cancer patients deal with the stress, anxiety, and depression that can accompany a diagnosis of cancer and its treatment. Easing patients' distress can greatly improve the quality of their lives. Our social workers also help to ensure that patients get emotional support as well as assistance with daily needs like housing and transportation. They conduct a number of individual, family, and group counseling support groups both on an inpatient and outpatient basis. After treatment, patients have access to the Resources for Life After Cancer program, which offers seminars, lectures, support groups, and practical advice on insurance and employment issues.
Our Integrative Medicine Service complements the mainstream medical care and addresses the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and families. We offer a full range of complementary therapies, including massage, reflexology, shiatsu, meditation, music therapy, and acupuncture. Complementary therapies are not substitutes for mainstream medical care but are used together with medical treatments to help patients alleviate stress, reduce pain and anxiety, manage symptoms, and promote a feeling of well-being.
Controlling Cancer Pain
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we strongly believe that no cancer patient should suffer unmanageable cancer pain. We were the first US cancer center to develop an interdisciplinary service devoted specifically to treating cancer patients' pain. Our pain experts continue to pioneer the use of new drugs and novel methods of drug delivery. In some cases, we also use cognitive-behavioral approaches and relaxation techniques to complement the use of pain medication. We have a center-wide program to ensure that patients who have pain are identified and treated appropriately and effectively.