August 30, 2014

The Gulfshore's Top Doctors 2013

Our annual list of Castle Connolly's picks for the most recommended physicians in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.

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Less Invasive Ways to Treat Women’s Cancer

THERE ARE FEW WORDS IN THE ENGLISH language scarier than “cancer”. And for women, ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers are especially terrifying. But Dr. James Orr, medical director of Lee Memorial Health System’s Regional Cancer Center, has been a calming beacon, helping women fight against the disease for 32 years. “Uterine cancer is the most common malignancy we deal with: 42,000 women in this country,” says Orr, a physician with 21st Century Oncology. “Florida represents 7 percent— because of our demographics—of all the gynecological cancers in the country.”

Because of that, it comes as no surprise that Orr has performed approximately 25,000 operations during his career. Techniques and technology have changed markedly over the years, increasing survival rates and making treatment more palatable for those afflicted.

“In the past, we would operate on women, they’d have a big incision, long hospital stays and have the complications associated those things,” says Orr, named a Best Doctor for Women by Good Housekeeping.

“Today, probably 98 to 99 percent of women undergoing the initial surgical procedure for uterine cancer are treated with minimally invasive techniques—either with laparoscopy or robotics.”

That has cut their hospital stay from an average of three and a half or four days to basically overnight and has allowed patients to return to normalcy in two weeks rather than six.

Standard procedure after a diagnosis of uterine cancer has been to surgically remove all 22 to 24 lymph nodes that drain into the uterus and examine them. But soon it will be possible to merely take out one node (called the Sentinel node) in a much less invasive procedure to learn the same information.

“We are also investigating the molecular basis for treatment (of cancer),” Orr says. “We are able to evaluate the molecular body of individual cancer cells to give these women individualized cancer treatment to treat their cancer, not the cancer of 100 other women from a study. … We are not there yet, but it’s coming. (Soon we’ll be able to say), ‘We don’t think you have a 30 percent chance of responding, we think you have a 90 percent chance of responding.’”

And that should help one day lessen the power of the word “cancer.”

—Michael Korb


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