3 Events Offer Hope for People with Brain Tumors

Apr. 15, 2009
A PET scan allows doctors to see a brain tumor in an elderly man.

People with brain tumors, and those who love and care for them, will observe Brain Tumor Awareness Week with three educational and celebratory events sponsored by the University of Rochester Medical Center and James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. 

On Friday, May 1, there will be a seminar for patients, their families, and physicians that focuses on the latest research and treatment approaches in brain and spinal tumors. Then on Thursday, May 7, patients, families and clinicians will gather for the Community Sharing Hope Picnic at Kings Bend Park in Pittsford. And on Saturday, May 9, there will be an education and supportive program for caregivers.

Each year, approximately 500 people with brain tumors are treated at the Medical Center and Wilmot Cancer Center, making it the largest program in the region. The events are offered by the Program for Brain and Spinal Tumors at the Medical Center and the Wilmot Cancer Center.

Friday, May 1 – Update on Treatment Strategies
A team of neurosurgeons, neurologists and adult and pediatric oncologists will lead the second annual Update in Neuro-Oncology and address a variety of medical issues that patients and their family members encounter.  

Chemotherapy, imaging techniques, managing seizures, rehabilitation therapies, and more than a dozen other topics will be covered in two simultaneous sessions, one for consumers and one for health care providers. In addition, Minesh Mehta, M.D., radiation oncologist and professor of Human Oncology and Neurological Surgery at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, will deliver a lecture on novel therapies for malignant gliomas. Kevin Walter, M.D., associate professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology and director of the Program for Brain and Spinal Tumors at the Medical Center, helped organize the seminar to provide a comprehensive update on current treatment strategies for people with brain or spinal tumors.  “Patients with brain or spinal tumors face a myriad of health challenges that often requires a team of specialists working together to provide the best treatment,” Walter said. “By opening these sessions to patients, their families and physicians, we hope to provide a broader understanding of the most recent advances in treatments, and what that means for people affected.”

The seminar, to be held at Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua, is $20 for patients, family members and students. The registration fee, which is higher for health professionals, includes lunch. Call (585) 275-4392 to register.

Thursday, May 7 – Community Sharing Hope Picnic

Brain tumor survivors and their families, friends and medical staff will celebrate with a community picnic from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Kings Bend Park in Pittsford.

Many in attendance at the annual picnic are members of the Adult Brain Tumor Network, at Strong Memorial Hospital and the Wilmot Cancer Center, which provides support for people with brain tumors and their families. The Medical Center’s Neurosurgery, Pediatric Oncology and Radiation Oncology departments, along with the Wilmot Cancer Center, are sponsoring the event. For more information, call (585) 275-4631 or (585) 273-49670.

Saturday, May 9 – Family Caregiver Training Program
This second annual program will provide support for people who are caring for someone with a brain tumor.

Participants will learn about brain tumor diagnoses and treatment, ways to cope, and network with others. Social workers, physical therapists, nurses and physicians will lead sessions such as brain tumors 101, managing symptoms at home, living and coping with cognitive and personality changes, occupational and speech therapies, palliative care. There will also question and answer session with a panel of caregivers and clinicians.

“This is an opportunity for caregivers to come together, to learn how others cope in similar circumstances, and to address some tough issues that can be difficult to face,” said physician assistant Jennifer Serventi, RPA-C, an organizer. “A diagnosis of a brain tumor presents special challenges for patients and family alike. People may suddenly be depressed or have an extreme personality change that seems confusing. They might lose the ability to understand words or simple language. They might have extreme weakness on just one side of the body. The person who has always been great with numbers might suddenly not be able to balance a checkbook.”

The educational sessions are combined with opportunities to relax with free massages and network with others over lunch.

The seminar is sponsored by the Medical Center and the National Brain Tumor Society, with funding from Departments of Radiation Oncology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, as well as Wegmans Food Markets and Bruegger’s Bagels. The seminar will be held at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School. The seminar is free, but registration is required. Call (585) 276-3971 to register.