Cancer survivor twice blessed with oncology care team
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Jun 30, 2011 - 5:58 AM

DANBURY, CT - As a breast cancer survivor for nearly two decades, Patricia Walsh thought her battle with the disease was in the past until she learned she had gynecological cancer. “That was the beginning of my second journey with cancer,” said Walsh.

These days, Walsh is finishing the final chapter of that journey following major cancer surgery with Shohreh Shahabi, MD, a gynecologist oncologist and chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Danbury Hospital. Subsequent imaging tests show Walsh is now free of cancer.

“Life is good,” said Walsh, who feels blessed to have survived cancer twice. “If I made it through hard times before, I can do it again.” She attributes her success to her supportive family and friends, along with the highly skilled cancer specialists who provided coordinated and compassionate care. “I have a great medical team,” she said. “I feel confident that I can call them anytime.”

Multidisciplinary approach benefits patients

The Gynecologic Cancer Program within the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Danbury Hospital taps the expertise of many specialists, including a gynecologic oncology surgeon, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, a genetic counselor, oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals. Patients have access to the latest advances in cancer detection and treatment, in addition to support services and resources.

An internationally recognized cancer researcher, Dr. Shahabi heads the Gynecologic Cancer Program alongside Robert Samuelson, MD, director of Minimally Invasive Surgery and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program. Physicians in the Gynecologic Cancer Program collaborate with experts at the Praxair Cancer Center.

“We take a multidisciplinary approach to provide personalized and compassionate care that you don’t find in other institutions. We offer a supportive environment to assist patients and their loved ones,” said Dr. Shahabi. “Our physicians have extensive experience diagnosing and treating cancer of the female reproductive tract. The team is in constant communication in order to develop an optimum plan.”

Gynecologic oncologists at Danbury Hospital are experienced in minimally invasive gynecological procedures, including robotic-assisted technology. “These techniques involve small incisions that result in less pain, less blood loss, smaller scars, shorter hospital stays and a quicker return to normal activities,” explained Dr. Shahabi. “Some gynecological procedures, however, do require open surgery. Every case is unique.”

Teamwork leads to optimum treatment

Like Walsh, many people with cancer today are treated with a combination of methods, which could include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“At Danbury Hospital, every case is reviewed by a multidisciplinary gynecologic tumor board that includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and other experts. This review team comes together to examine the facts and determine the most appropriate treatment plan for each individual,” said Robert Kloss, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology at Danbury Hospital.

Walsh was confident her gynecological cancer treatment – six rounds of chemotherapy followed by a hysterectomy and three more rounds of chemotherapy – was on target because of the multidisciplinary assessment led by Dr. Shahabi. “I trusted them,” she said.

Tender loving care makes a difference

Having access to state-of-the-art cancer care resources close to home is a plus, said Walsh. But what really sets the doctors and nurses at Danbury Hospital apart from others is the kindness they have shown for two decades. “I feel lucky to have them,” she said.

Walsh first turned to Danbury Hospital in 1994 when she underwent surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. Dr. Kloss was her medical oncologist and John Famigletti, MD, was her breast surgeon. “I’ve been seeing Dr. Kloss for my annual check-ups for 17 years,” she said. “I saw Dr. Famigletti for 10 years.”

All was well until Walsh started having persistent back pain and bloating. A colleague, Frederick Kayal, MD, suggested she have a computed tomography (CT) scan which showed some “suspicious cancer activity,” said Walsh. “I am so thankful that Dr. Kayal recommended that scan.” Her primary care doctor, James Finnerty, MD, advised her to have additional tests. That led to a visit with Dr. Kloss, who recommended she see Dr. Shahabi, a fellowship-trained surgeon known for her cancer research. Dr. Shahabi worked with the entire team of physicians, including the community doctors.

“Dr. Shahabi made me feel relaxed from the very beginning,” said Walsh. “She was warm and welcoming. She took the time to explain everything. I really appreciated that she included my husband in the discussion. She is an exceptional human being as well as a doctor.” The hospital experience following surgery was extraordinary, too, with daily visits from Dr. Shahabi, day and night. “The nurses were like angels,” she said. “It’s as if they feel your pain and know how to help.”

Now Walsh is looking to the future with confidence and gratitude that Danbury Hospital’s team is nearby should the need arise. “I know they’re looking out for me!”

About Western Connecticut Health Network

Western Connecticut Health Network is a patient-centered health care organization established in 2010 by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and their affiliated organizations, to provide the highest level of care to patients throughout Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. In addition to the two hospitals, other network affiliates include:

· an integrated physician practice with primary and specialty care expertise
· an agency for home care and community health services
· a full-service retail pharmacy located at Danbury Hospital
· emergency medical services
· an occupational wellness and medicine program, providing services for business and industry

Western Connecticut Health Network has centers of excellence in Women’s, neonatal, cardiovascular and cancer services; weight loss and orthopedic surgery; digestive disorders and radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Both hospitals also maintain active clinical research programs, offering clinical trials for patients with cancer and other health concerns. For more information, visit

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital is nationally recognized as a tertiary health care center with an innovative high-tech, high-touch environment and is also a member of the Planetree organization. In addition to offering the latest robotic and minimally invasive surgical and imaging technology, it was the first hospital in Connecticut to adopt electronic health records systems. It offers a Level II Trauma Center and Level IIIb Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve as faculty members of the nation’s finest university medical centers offering a higher level of experience. For more information, visit and share your comments with us at

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