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Clinical Services

Breast Cancer

From screening and diagnosis through treatment and support CVPH offers a coordinated approach to breast cancer care. The freestanding Women's Imaging Center located at the CVPH Health Plaza offers customer convenience, privacy and quality for those experiencing a mammogram. Breast MRI is available at Valcour Imaging. A full range of treatment options is available including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Second opinions are encouraged.

However, dealing with breast cancer requires more than clinical skills, cutting edge treatment protocols and high tech equipment. Learn more about our breast care program in this 2012 report.  Emotional support and guidance are critical and CVPH is second to none in this regard. Elli Collins is a clinical nurse specialist who has reached out to hundreds of women to help them in the battle against breast cancer. Her involvement one on one and through the Treasure Chests Breast Cancer Support Group has truly made a difference.

Elizabeth Heins Inspirational Survivorship Award
Each year the Treasure Chests seek nominations for the Elizabeth Heins Inspirational Survivorship Award.  The award was created in 2005 to honor the late Elizabeth Heins, a Plattsburgh woman who was active in many community groups. A breast cancer survivor, Heins was known for her zest for life, warm smile, adventurous spirit, involvement with survivorship activities. The award is given to a deserving woman each year at the annual Breast Cancer Soiree held in May.  To learn about nominating someone you know click here. Submit your nomination to Elli Collins at Be sure to include Heins Nomination in the subject line.

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Clinical Trials

Oncology patients at CVPH can benefit from participation in clinical trials when other treatment regimens are deemed to be less attractive. Clinical trials evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people and are very carefully regulated. Clinical trials available at CVPH typically are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

For some patients clinical research trials represent an avenue for receiving promising new therapies that would not otherwise be available. Patients with difficult to treat or currently "incurable" cancers may want to pursue participate in clinical research trials if standard therapies prove to be ineffective.

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Inpatient Care

Inpatient Care

The majority of cancer patients admitted to CVPH Medical Center receive their care on the R-5 Nursing Unit. The staff specializes in cancer care and many have attained national certification in the field of oncology and/or palliative care.

The mission of R-5 is to promote an optimum quality of life and to provide comprehensive cancer care to its patients and their families. Staff members provide a holistic approach to the needs of its patients.

Every effort is made to integrate inpatient and outpatient care as appropriate. The R-5 staff collaborates with the FitzPatrick Cancer Center and Hospice of the North Country to ensure its patients receive comprehensive care and benefit from all of the expertise the cancer-care team can muster.

The R-5 staff is skilled in caring for cancer patients including:

  • Those receiving chemotherapy.
  • Those receiving radiation therapy.
  • Those requiring nutritional assessment and management.
  • Those requiring pain assessment and management.
  • Those receiving palliative care.
  • Those with hematological disorders.
  • Those receiving radioactive implants.
  • Those with compromised immune systems.

The R-5 staff is committed to patient safety. In 2008, a computerized, medication administration check program was introduced. All patient medications are bar coded and checked before administration to ensure the correct patient is receiving the correct medication, the correct dose, in the correct manner of administration at the correct time.

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Lung Cancer Tumor Conference

In 1993, a separate multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Tumor Conference was begun. The medical disciplines of Thoracic Surgery, Pulmonary Medicine, Medical and Radiation Oncology, Radiology and Pathology come together twice monthly to discuss newly diagnosed cases of lung cancer and well as to review problematic established cases. Meetings are teleconferenced with two of the nation's leading institutes for cancer care: Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Treatment options are considered and a best practice, recommended course of action is agreed upon and communicated to the attending physician.

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Medical Oncology

Medical Oncology is the specialty of medicine that is responsible for the medical care of both diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancer. The doctors at CVPH certified in this specialty are particularly involved with the use of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is a treatment modality that involves administering drugs to patients, usually intravenously, that are formulated to kill or disable cancer cells. In contrast to surgery or radiation therapy, that are only effective in the specific area of treatment, chemotherapy drugs are distributed throughout the majority of the body.

Using chemotherapy, medical oncologists have been able to cure some illnesses that could not have been cured with other treatment modalities. Often chemotherapy is part of a combined modality of treatment along with surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Side effects from chemotherapy sometimes result. However, the use of newer medications have decreased complications and improved quality of life for patients. At CVPH we are committed to doing everything within our power to promote quality of life while helping to achieve the most positive outcomes possible for our patients.

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Pain and Palliative Care

Pain management is an extremely important part of cancer care at CVPH. We believe that patients who remain in severe pain can have poorer treatment outcomes and a diminished quality of life.

Mild to moderate pain may be treated with an analgesic medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Chronic or severe pain may be addressed using opiates and other narcotics, sometimes in concert with other drugs including anti-depressants.

Patients on the R-5 Nursing Unit at CVPH experiencing severe pain may benefit from the uses of devices that enable them to self-administer narcotics. By having control, they often are able to lessen their pain without increasing drug use.

The professional nursing staff works closely with patients to try to maximize pain control, comfort and quality of life.

An outgrowth of the focus on pain control led to the development of a Palliative Care Program that is based on R-5 but available to patients throughout CVPH Medical Center. Palliative care provides medical or comfort care that reduces the severity of a disease or slows its progress rather than providing a cure. Palliative care becomes the focus of treatment in situations where the disease is incurable or when the patient does not choose to pursue a cure.

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The Department of Pathology at CVPH Medical Center provides an integral role in cancer care from both a diagnostic and consultative standpoint.

The Department of Pathology offers a broad range of anatomic pathology and clinical laboratory diagnostic services including many of the most modern techniques to make accurate diagnoses. This includes aspiration cytology, biopsies, Pap smears or analysis of any other specimens.

In the event that a procedure cannot be carried out at CVPH, relationships are in place to obtain quick, accurate diagnostic results from other laboratories.

The pathologists are active participants in the CVPH Tumor Board consultative meetings. They collaborate on treatment plans and provide ongoing advice and recommendations.

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A comprehensive array of imaging services is available to patients at the main CVPH Medical Center campus, the Women's Imaging Center in the CVPH Health Plaza, and at Valcour Imaging. We combine the latest techniques for non-invasive imaging studies with compassionate care in order to achieve high patient satisfaction. Friendly, personalized care, modern, up-to-date technology and the willingness to answer patients' questions and take time so that no one feels rushed are hallmarks of the imaging services at CVPH.

The team of radiologists is comprised of Board Certified professionals who specialize in the various imaging modalities in order to achieve optimum diagnostic results. The radiologists also participate actively with the Tumor Board, sharing their views about the best treatment options in order to achieve the most positive outcomes.

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Radiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology, also called Radiation Therapy, plays a critical role in the treatment of many patients within the FitzPatrick Cancer Center at CVPH. High-energy rays are used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and dividing.

Similar to surgery, radiation oncology is a localized treatment. Cancer cells in the area being treated are the only tissue affected. Radiation can be administered using a machine as an external source of therapy or internally using an implant.

The department has two linear accelerators available for use including one with Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) capabilities. IMRT allows Cancer Center staff to use a higher dose and achieve better outcomes because it can customize treatment and create less damage to surrounding tissue. IMRT beams can actually wrap around organs and deliver different doses to regions of the body. Not all patients need or would benefit from IMRT based on the location of their cancer.

A radiation oncologist oversees care and develops treatment plans with assistance from a physicist and dosimetrist who specialize in cancer care.

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Surgery In the treatment of cancer, surgery provides the most accurate evidence of pathological staging and defines histologic features of tumor growth. Surgery remains the most definitive form of cancer treatment available. At CVPH, the Surgery Department continues as an integral component of the cancer care team.


Cancers of the breast, colon, lung and prostate are most commonly treated via surgery at CVPH. Surgical intervention for cancers of the skin and head and neck are also fairly frequent. Emphasis by the Department of Surgery is on providing the most common services, providing them well, and monitoring outcomes, comparing them with national standards and norms.

The weekly, multidisciplinary Tumor Board provides the opportunity for physicians to determine the options for specific treatment modalities based on clinical information, pathology and imaging results. This is a great asset for surgeons. Cases are studied in depth with opinions offered by an array of medical specialists. The thorough discussion generated by case studies aids in future diagnoses and therapies.

In October 2008, CVPH opened a new, state-of-the-art Surgery Department. Surgeons and their patients benefit from the finest, most technologically advanced facilities available. Furthering its perioperative capabilities, a da Vinci Surgical Robot System was introduced and is being used for a number of oncology procedures including prostate and GYN cases.

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