At Lake Regional Health System, we're devoted to helping people with cancer. In our Cancer Center, we offer state-of-the-art therapies that can find and treat cancer. And our team is made up of compassionate providers who will treat you—and the people you love—like family.
Meet Our Cancer Treatment Team
When you come to the Cancer Center for treatment, you'll work with a team of professionals, including:
- Radiation oncologists
- Nurses certified in oncology and palliative care
- Registered dietitians
Our team works together to provide the medical expertise you need close to home.
Cancer Treatment Options We Offer
We address a wide variety of cancers, including:
- lung cancer
- breast cancer
- colorectal cancer
- prostate cancer
- and more.
Each type of cancer is a little different, and the therapies that work best on these cancers can vary. We'll explain your options carefully, and we'll create a treatment plan that's best for your cancer, your health and your goals.
Your treatment plan might involve:
Our surgeons can take tissue samples to diagnose or stage cancer. They can also perform surgeries to remove cancerous tumors from your body.
We have 10 private infusion bays in our Cancer Center—each equipped with a television and wireless internet. During your therapy, you can rest, relax or catch up on a favorite program. Our nurses will be close at hand during your therapy to monitor your progress and offer added support if you need it.
We offer high-tech radiation options that can target tumors while sparing healthy tissue. These machines work quickly too. Our treatments are done in less time than needed by conventional radiation therapy machines.
We offer a number of programs that can help you to manage the side effects of cancer treatments and the life changes cancer can bring. We encourage you to visit our Cancer Screening & Support page to find out more. Or, stop by the office of our cancer resource navigator the next time you're in our Cancer Center. She can explain how our programs work and how you can get involved.
Set on Life: Mary Ann Hodgson
“When you first hear that word ‘cancer,’ you think it’s a death sentence. But I wasn’t ready to give up on life.”
Mary Ann Hodgson never thought she would have breast cancer.
“It came as a shock,” she said. “When you are first diagnosed, there is nothing you can do about it. So you have to accept it. It’s hard to get your mind wrapped around it, but once you do, you say, ‘I can fight this.’ ”
Hodgson received her breast cancer diagnosis in February 2017 at the age of 70. Her family doctor, Virginia Nagy, M.D., at Lake Regional Clinic – Lake Ozark, found a lump in her left breast during her annual checkup and ordered an ultrasound. The test found two lumps, and biopsies confirmed cancer.
“When you first hear that word ‘cancer,’ you think it’s a death sentence,” Hodgson said. “But I wasn’t ready to give up on life.”
Married for 10 years to her husband, Bob, Hodgson wanted more time with him. She wanted to travel and to see her grandchildren — all nine of them — graduate from college. She was not ready to leave her kids, a son and daughter, whom she raised as a single mother.
Her life on the line, Hodgson wanted the best cancer center possible. She shared this with Dr. Nagy, who told her, “Mary Ann, I will send you anywhere you want to go, but we have one of the best cancer centers and one of the best cancer doctors right here at Lake Regional.” Still, Hodgson wanted to be sure. She did some of her own research and found that two years earlier, Lake Regional was one of only 75 centers nationwide to receive an Outstanding Achievement Award from the College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
“My mind was made up,” she said. “Why travel when there was a hospital at the lake with these credentials?”
Hodgson met with Lake Regional Oncologist Michael Wang, M.D., and Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner Brandi Kincaid, NP-C, AOCNP, to create a game plan. There was bad news and good news. She had triple-negative breast cancer, which can be more aggressive and difficult to treat, but it had not spread outside her breast.
With guidance from Dr. Wang and Brandi, Hodgson chose to begin her treatment with a mastectomy. Lake Regional General Surgeon John Patton, D.O., FACOS, removed the breast and two lymph nodes. Next came five months of chemo, at first scheduled every two weeks.
“I lost my hair after the first two treatments,” Hodgson said. “Nobody wants to lose their hair, but I was willing to lose my hair to be cancer free.”
Hodgson struggled with chemo’s harsh side effects. Most weeks, she needed to make at least one if not two trips to Lake Regional Cancer Center to receive fluids for strength. Dr. Wang adjusted her treatment to every three weeks to help her tolerate the chemo better.
“No way I could’ve gone somewhere else and gotten the care I got here,” Hodgson said. “The nurses were on top of it — they knew how to do good patient care and how to communicate. If I had a question, they answered it. If they couldn’t answer it, they asked Dr. Wang or Brandi. When I felt like, ‘Oh, I can’t get through this,’ they were positive.”
Hodgson finished chemo in September 2017 and, thankfully, did not need radiation. In November, she had breast reconstruction surgery, performed by Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon David Huang, M.D., at Lake Regional.
Now, a year after her last treatment, Hodgson is doing great. Her only long-term side effect has been some neuropathy — tingling and numbness in her hands and feet — but even that’s not been too bad.
“I was really afraid I might come out a weaker person,” she said. “But I still do what I want to do.”
That includes gardening at home and volunteering at Lake Regional Health System, where she makes rounds offering patients and visitors such comfort items as snacks, drinks, puzzle books and more. She now also volunteers in the Cancer Center.
She began volunteering before her cancer, in 2015, to keep busy after retiring; she worked for 37 years at Fort Leonard Wood in support services. She always enjoyed helping others, but now that she’s a cancer survivor, it means even more to her.
“You just have a different outlook, being a cancer survivor,” she said. “I think attitude has everything to do with the healing process. You’ve got to keep yourself surrounded by positive people.”
Strong Survivor: Roseann Dzurko
Roseann Dzurko did not want to lose her hair. In fact, that was the first thing she said when she learned her breast cancer required chemo.
But when clumps of her brown, chin-length hair began falling out, Dzurko also did not want people feeling sorry for her. So one night when her husband was out of the house, she shaved it all off.
“When I was done, I thought, ‘You know, this doesn’t look too bad,’ ” she said.
Refusing to feel pitiful and instead doing what she could to feel empowered sums up Dzurko’s response to stage 3 breast cancer.
“It was rough,” said the 63-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, “but I wasn’t going to let it get me down. You have to have the right attitude because if you don’t, it will consume you.”
Motivated to Fight
Dzurko’s breast cancer story began with an annual mammogram — something she always did every year in December. In 2016, the screening detected a mass in her left breast. Surgery and testing revealed she had hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. It had not spread throughout her breast, but it was in nearby lymph nodes. That meant Dzurko needed both radiation and chemotherapy.
It also meant she needed to find a cancer center closer to home. Dzurko and her husband, Al, had moved to Sunrise Beach in 2007 but had always gone back to Illinois for their health care. She received her diagnosis in Illinois, as well as surgeries to remove the cancer from her breast and 17 lymph nodes — five of which had cancer. But she did not want to stay in Illinois for her radiation and chemo.
“When we visit Illinois, we stay with our daughter,” Dzurko explained, “and I didn’t want my grandsons seeing me like that.”
Those grandsons — Matthew, 9, and Colton, 7 — were Dzurko’s greatest motivation for beating cancer.
“Everybody’s got their bucket list,” she said. “For me, it’s being here to see those two grandsons of mine grow up and become fine young men. That’s all. Just a few years to see them grow.”
Making the Battle Plan
Dzurko checked out Lake Regional Cancer Center at the recommendation of a friend, who received treatment at Lake Regional for lung cancer. The support Dzurko found was “incredible,” she said.
“The staff is so great, just wonderful,” she said.
Dzurko also was pleased with the treatment plan Lake Regional Oncologist Michael Wang, M.D., created for her. Instead of scheduling eight sessions of chemo across the standard 24 weeks — as her doctor in Illinois had suggested — Dr. Wang recommended scheduling eight sessions across 16 weeks, a “dose-dense” treatment plan.
“If the patient can tolerate it, dose-dense chemotherapy is better — it’s associated with better survival,” Dr. Wang explained.
Dzurko also preferred the more intense pace because it meant she completed her treatment two months earlier.
A Victory Shared
During treatment, Dzurko found keeping active helped her maintain a positive attitude.
“I tried to keep busy, but sometimes, it just kicked my butt,” she said. The worst part, she added, was when her bones ached. “I tended to do my crying alone in bed. And this,” she said pulling a rosary out her purse, “helped me a lot. I prayed a lot. People would call and encourage me. And seeing my kids — that always helped.”
Dzurko finished her chemo on June 22, 2017, and her radiation on August 23, 2017. Now cancer-free, she is on a five-year maintenance regimen of the breast cancer pill letrozole. She also receives regular checkups.
A grateful survivor, she hopes her story motivates other women to prioritize their annual mammograms.
“When I hear women say, ‘I haven’t had a mammogram in five years,’ I get a sinking feeling,” she said. “If I hadn’t had my mammogram, I don’t know where I’d be right now. My doctor said I never would’ve felt the lump because it was too deep. But the mammogram found it.”
Beating Breast Cancer: Pattie Alkire
"When I would get down, [my care team] would lift me up."
Pattie Alkire tells her breast cancer survivor story with a smile. Yet, there were times during her battle when she struggled not to give in to sadness and fear.
"If you're going through cancer, there are going to be good days and bad days; you'll take one step forward and two steps back," she says. "There are times when you give up, but then you see other people fighting cancer and think, 'If they can do it, I can, too.'"
Pattie found her breast cancer while performing a routine self-exam in February 2014. She and her husband, Raymond, were enjoying life as empty nesters and spent much of their time hunting, fishing and camping on the Gasconade. They also liked to leave their phones at home, climb in their SUV and drive gravel roads, looking at wildlife and talking.
That life was suddenly threatened when Pattie felt a lump in her left breast. It was about the size of a pea, but just a week later when she had a mammogram at the Lake Regional Imaging Center, the lump had already grown to 3 centimeters in diameter. A biopsy done three days later at the Imaging Center revealed she had stage III breast cancer.
Pattie started chemo at Lake Regional Cancer Center within a week of diagnosis and later had a double mastectomy and radiation. She had the usual side effects from chemo, including nausea and loss of appetite. She lost 30 pounds and was exhausted. Still, she managed to continue working as an accountant at Central Ozarks Medical Center in Richland. Co-workers, friends and family encouraged her in her fight, and through it all, Raymond was by her side.
"I couldn't have asked for anyone better to go through cancer with," Pattie says. "He has been a core support for me."
Additional support came from her care team at Lake Regional Cancer Center.
"They were wonderful—the nurses, doctors, volunteers, everybody," Pattie says. "They treated me exceptionally well. They gave me warm blankets and pampered me and made me feel appreciated. Whenever I had questions, they didn't mind me calling and would help me get what I needed to feel better."
She adds that the compassion she received at Lake Regional Cancer Center made a "big difference" in her recovery. "Because if you know that someone cares if you get well or not, it makes you fight a lot harder," she says. "When I would get down, they would lift me up."
Pattie has been cancer-free since her double mastectomy in August 2014. She took her last Herceptin chemo treatment July 2, 2015, and has finished one of five years of taking a tamoxifen pill. She is feeling good and says surviving cancer has given her a whole new outlook on life.
"There are a lot of things that change after cancer," she says. "Things that used to upset you don't matter anymore, and little things you used to take for granted are important now. The most important thing to me right now is I can wake up, get out of bed, go to work and be me."
Do Surgery Here: Skip Thomas
Ira “Skip” Thomas learned he had prostate cancer in June 2018. The 73-year-old from Camdenton thought he’d have to go to Columbia to get the recommended care —minimally invasive surgery using a robotic system. Then he learned Lake Regional Health System was adding a da Vinci X robotic surgery system.
Compared to traditional minimally invasive prostate surgery, da Vinci surgeries have many potential benefits, including fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery.
“Columbia is a long drive from Camdenton, so I decided I’d rather do the surgery here at Lake Regional,” Thomas said.
Lake Regional Urologist Eric McQueary, D.O., performed Thomas’s surgery.
“He’s very straightforward, very honest,” Thomas said. “I really like him.”
Dr. McQueary is always in the same room as his patients when performing da Vinci surgeries, and he is always fully in control of how the instruments move.
Thomas’s surgery went well. He returned home after one night in the hospital and needed only one pain pill.
“I had no problems at all,” he said.
Two weeks later at a checkup, Thomas felt great and was thankful he received the care he needed at Lake Regional.
“Dr. McQueary explained the whole procedure to me ahead of time, so I was very relaxed and comfortable with it,” he said. “I would recommend it to anybody.”
The most effective test for detecting breast cancer is now at Lake Regional Imaging Center. 3-D mammograms provide clearer images from several angles, so they show smaller cancers at an earlier stage, when they are easier to treat. Learn more.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 45 to 54 get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older may choose to switch to every two years.
Find Out More About Our Cancer Center
In 2015, our Cancer Center was the only program in the state to earn an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer. It's an achievement we're proud of—and it demonstrates the excellence our team offers the community each day.