As Seen in the Citrus County Chronicle: Two doctors have cancer in common

Citrus County Board Certified Radiation Oncologist Dr. Jayanth Rao was featured in the Citrus County Chronicle discussing how state-of-the-art prostate cancer treatments – available close to home – helped a fellow physician get through the diagnosis. Below is the story that appeared on the front page of the paper.
By Pat Faherty

Dr. John Larsen and Dr. Jayanth Rao both know a lot about cancer.

Larsen has dealt with cancer as a survivor for more than two decades, while Rao has devoted his career to knowing the disease and helping cancer patients.

Rao is a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist at 21st Century in Beverly Hills, where Larsen has been a long-time patient. So when the two talk candidly about cancer, it is on an authoritative level but indicative of the rapport Rao has with his patients.

Larsen was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994 when he was 52 and working as a full-time emergency room physician in Everett, Washington.

He had some knowledge of the disease but recalls it was not enough. He was having difficulty urinating.

“That was a problem,” he said. “When you’re the only doctor in the hospital for emergencies, you can’t go and stand in the bathroom for five minutes — that was a problem.”

It drove him to a urologist.

“When he did the digital, I knew by the look on his face that something was wrong,” said Larsen. And it was after his diagnosis he also found out his grandfather had died from prostate cancer at age 56.

Subsequent tests showed the cancer had spread, and he was not a candidate for surgery. He was put on androgen deprivation and radiation treatments for about six years.

“I was good until about 2007,” he said, “and in the meantime, I had moved here.”

He was still going back to work, but on one return trip Larsen developed so much pain in his upper back he could not talk.

“So I called Dr. Rao, I didn’t know anybody here, but he was the closest one,” Larsen said. “He checked me, did the labs and started radiation as soon as possible, which did relieve the pain.”

So he went back to work, but three years later, the pain returned and he went back to Rao. After treatment Larsen, was back at work off and on. But the cancer had spread, and he had two back surgeries

followed by 11 chemotherapy treatments and more radiation treatments, which Rao described as palliative.

Since then, Larsen has done some part-time work and outwardly appears vibrant and healthy. Last week, in response to his multiple areas of bone cancer, Rao determined Larsen would be a candidate for a liquid radioactive isotope given intravenously.

“It goes through the bloodstream and pretty much locates the cancer sites,” Rao said. “Because it was so diffused, doing this would be better. Instead of doing a patchwork, it will reach all the bony sites. It’s again palliative, but it prevents the pain, prevents fractures. You can do that only once every three months or so. And it’s only for bone cancer.”

He described what Larsen has as a very aggressive cancer.

“And not surprisingly, this cancer moved, but we kept things at bay by different medications.”

However, Rao said, there came a point in time when even those became ineffective, because a patient develops resistance, which led to the isotope treatment.

Rao also touched on the controversial issue of surgery or non-surgery for prostate cancer and the definition of “cure.”

“There is no difference between surgery and radiation in terms of longevity,” he said.

As for a cure for prostate cancer, it depends on how one defines it.

“If you say cure means gone forever and it is not going to come back, then there’s no cure,” said Rao. “But if you say 10 and 20-year survival is considered a cure, we do have 10-year survivors, 15-year survivors and 20-year survivors.”

“I don’t know why I’ve survived so long,” said Larsen, “When I first started on this, I had opinions from five or six

specialists in Seattle and they gave me approximately one to four years to live. I attribute it to good care and keeping going. I’m a person of strong faith and strong will.”

As for advice, he urges people facing cancer to check all possibilities before taking a course of action.

Rao, who has practiced here for 20 years and treats all types of cancer, also addressed the controversy over PSA testing for prostate cancer.

“We need it,” he said. “It’s cheap, it’s easily available, so why not do it? Without that, we have nothing else to go by.”

His other observation on cancer, is that people in Citrus County are quick to look to Tampa or Gainesville when presented with that diagnoses, when there are great services available here.

“There’s nothing they can do that we can’t do,” he said.
Click here to read the full story on the Citrus County Chronicle’s website.

As Seen in the Tri-City Herald: Northwest Cancer Clinic announces partnership

Northwest Cancer Clinic and 21st Century Oncology have announced a joint venture partnership that will give Southeastern Washington oncology patients access to greater resources in the treatment of their cancer. Below is the story that was published in the Tri-City Herald.


Northwest Cancer Clinic has formed a partnership with the largest radiation oncology services provider in the country — a move that will allow the Kennewick practice to maintain its independence while tapping into the larger network’s buying power and research resources.

The partnership with 21st Century Oncology was announced Monday.

“We began talking about a partnership as we realized that cancer care was becoming more sophisticated every day and we didn’t want people here locally to feel like their care was falling behind,” said Dr. Sheila Rege, Northwest Cancer Clinic medical director, in a statement. “Navigating health insurance is also becoming more complicated and this partnership will provide more patient resources and be a great benefit for our patients.”

The clinic is “always striving to do what’s best for the community and our patients” and the partnership “is one more step that helps us” continue to do so, Rege added in an interview.

In a separate statement, 21st Century Oncology said it is “proud to enter into this joint venture partnership” with the Kennewick clinic.

“Both organizations share a common goal of delivering high quality cancer treatment to patients on the community level in convenient and comfortable settings. This partnership will connect cancer patients in the Tri-Cities area with national resources through 21st Century Oncology’s vast network, including access to clinical trials through partnerships with Yale School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School,” the statement said.

Rege said the partnership also will allow Northwest Cancer Clinic to leverage 21st Century Oncology’s buying power when it comes time to upgrade equipment. The clinic currently uses top-of-the-line technology, but “you have to look forward,” she said. “If something else comes up, you want to be able to (secure) it for your patients.”

And 21st Century Oncology also has training programs for radiation technologists and dosimetrists, giving the local clinic access to that talent pool, Rege said.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds. It’s a true partnership.”
21st Century Oncology has its headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla., and operates 150 treatment centers in the U.S., plus 35 centers in Latin America.

Northwest Cancer Clinic opened on West Deschutes Avenue in spring 2012. Its three physicians — Rege, Dr. Robert Chin and Dr. Eugene Hong are on staff — treat cancer using targeted radiation. The practice is the only one in the Tri-Cities with national accreditation in radiation oncology.

As the health care landscape changes, more independent practices and networks are aligning with larger providers.

It’s a pattern that’s repeated in the Tri-Cities. In the past year, for example, Richland-based Kadlec Health System affiliated with Providence Health & Services, which operates in five states, and Kadlec and the Kennewick-based Trios Health welcomed independent physician practices into their folds.

Read the full story on the Tri-City Herald website by clicking here.

Dr. Ajay Bhatnagar Featured on Good Evening Arizona

Scottsdale Board Certified Radiation Oncologist Dr. Ajay Bhatnagar was featured on 3TV in Phoenix discussing a new, non-surgical and pain free treatment for skin cancer. View the segment in the video below.

View the story on 3TV’s website by clicking here.

As Seen in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Las Vegas mom, diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, is a survivor

Dr. Brian Lawenda with 21st Century Oncology of Las Vegas was featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal discussing cancer treatment during pregnancy. Below is the story that appeared on the front page of the paper.


Fear kept Nina Santos from saying anything, fear for the life growing inside her, fear for her own life.

She felt the lump in her right breast growing, but she was afraid of what the changes meant. Twenty-eight weeks into her first pregnancy, her denial and attempts to ignore the problem caught up with her, and she heard the three words dreaded by anyone, let alone a woman experiencing the most joyful time of her life: “You have cancer.”

Click here to read the full story on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s website.

As Seen in Naples Daily News: Fort Myers Doctor Develops Post Breast Cancer Bra

Dr. Lea Blackwell’s new post-mastectomy bra was featured in the Naples Daily News.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – Women often complain about the compression bra they need to wear after breast cancer surgery to protect tissue and reduce swelling.

Post-surgical bras provided in a hospital or sold commercially can be hard to put on and off without help.

The material is scratchy and can irritate incisions. The drain bulb for collecting fluid that is pinned to the front is annoying.

Dr. Lea Blackwell, a Fort Myers breast surgeon, had an “aha moment.”

“Why can’t I just design my own bra,” Blackwell, 40, said to herself.

Click here to read the full story online.

Dr. Brian D. Lawenda Featured on KVVU Local News

Las Vegas cancer center, 21st Century Oncology and Dr. Brian D. Lawenda were featured on a local news broadcast regarding breast cancer treatment options.

View the video below.

As Seen in the Fort Myers News-Press: Cape Coral surgeon develops better bra for after mastectomy

The Fort Myers News-Press ran a story about local breast surgeon Dr. Lea Blackwell creating a new bra for breast cancer patients after surgery. Below is the story.

By: Michael Braun

Ilona Martin credits a newly patented bra, the brainchild of Cape Coral surgeon Dr. Lea Blackwell, for making her recovery from breast cancer and a double mastectomy bearable.

Martin, 61, learned she again had breast cancer in 2013. This was her third bout with the disease, and she remembered from her first surgery in 2001 how the bra she received after surgery made it hard to move.

“It took two people to put it on,” she said. “That’s archaic.”

Blackwell, 40, said the idea for the new bra came after hearing her patients complain about the compression style garments they must wear after breast surgeries.

Click here to read this story online.

Venice-Ocala Heart Institute Fittest Physician Contest Featured in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune published a story about The Venice-Ocala Heart Institute hosting the inaugural “Fittest Physician Contest” during the annual Manatee/Sarasota Heart Walk, which raises money for the American Heart Association. The competition is planned for 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20 at the southeastern area of Payne Park.

Click here to read the full story.