Healthy Partnership

PCPs prove pivotal in early detection and treatment of cancer.

Among all medical providers, the primary care physician, or PCP, is the one who typically has the most face-to-face contact with patients and develops the strongest relationships with them.

That’s why PCPs play such a critical role in the early detection and treatment of diseases, including many cancers. By ensuring their patients undergo routine screenings, PCPs help patients achieve the better outcomes and longer survival rates associated with early detection and treatment.

“Working against cancer is a very personal fight for me because my father died of lung cancer,” shares George E. Roque, MD, a board-certified internist at Atlantic Medical Group in Melbourne.

“I have a personal commitment to my patients and my community to battle cancer, and our practice proudly partners with the specialists at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard in that mission.

“At our practice, we are very proactive in following standard cancer screening guidelines, and because of that, we detect many cancers in their early stages. Once cancer is detected, we immediately direct those patients to an oncologist at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard so that treatment can be initiated right away.”

Lung Cancer Protocol

As their patients’ health care gatekeepers, PCPs have knowledge about the patients’ personal and family histories as well as their lifestyle habits. PCPs are aware if their patients smoke, are physically inactive and eat an unhealthy diet.

Based on these factors, PCPs can determine the patients’ risks for certain cancers and focus on prevention and early detection of those cancers. But general cancer screenings are important to patients’ overall health as well.

“We follow recognized guidelines for cancer screening, and all the cancers we screen for are important,” Dr. Roque stresses. “Colon cancer screening is one that leads the way. If we have patients with rectal bleeding, we follow that with screening tests and note any precancerous changes, so even borderline cancer can be removed.

“Other cancers, such as prostate cancer in men and breast and cervical cancer in women, also have screening tests that detect cancer early. The key is for physicians to not just press their patients to have these tests. They need to also explain in detail why these tests are important and the benefits of the tests. The PCP is in a good position to do that.

“Our fight against cancer must be waged along with patient education,” he adds. “If we don’t get the population educated, patients will never understand the importance of cancer screening. Education begins with the PCP but must be supported in the media and by the patients’ friends, family and other health care providers.”

There are no standard guidelines for lung cancer screening, but Dr. Roque’s Atlantic Medical Group recently implemented its own screening protocol for at-risk patients who smoke tobacco. They recommend low-dose CT scans to screen for tumors in the lungs, but they occasionally encounter resistance from insurers.

“Sometimes, the patient’s insurance company wants us to perform an x-ray only, but x-ray is not effective for lung cancer screening,” Dr. Roque points out. “We cannot detect as many tumors with a simple x-ray as with a CT scan. CT scanning will definitely prevent earlier-stage lung cancer. It’s one of our major goals with that particular cancer.”

Dr. Roque notes that the PCPs at Atlantic Medical Group are making headway with early cancer detection and treatment, as well as with patient education, with the assistance of their colleagues at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard.

“Our partnership with Cancer Care Centers of Brevard has been very good for us and for the community as well,” he confirms.

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    • Cancer Care Centers of Brevard

      For over 25 years, their mission has been to provide a compassionate setting for patients and their families. They believe in the dignity of all patients living with cancer and respect their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. At Cance... Read More

    • George E. Roque, MD

      George E. Roque, MD, is board certified in internal medicine. He earned his medical degree from Instituto Superior de Ciencias Médicas de la Habana in Cuba, and completed an internal medicine residency at Hospital Episcopal San Lucas in Pue... Read More