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Pinellas Cancer Treatment Center Marks 2,000th Patient Milestone

WellSpring Oncology patient shares his story about the difference in care

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – When 56-year-old Joel Barnes walked into Pinellas County cancer treatment facility, WellSpring Oncology, he never imagined being treated with such compassionate care, let alone becoming the cancer treatment facility’s 2,000th patient.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in April, Barnes and his physicians decided to perform a prostatectomy, surgically removing the prostate. But this October, Barnes went for his regular, prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and discovered his levels were becoming slightly elevated. Not wanting to take chances, he visited the Pinellas cancer treatment facility, WellSpring Oncology.

“Throughout my battle with prostate cancer, I had not been impressed with the medical field overall,” Barnes says. “But WellSpring was different.”

On his second visit, Barnes learned he was the 2,000th patient treated. To commemorate the occasion, the Pinellas cancer treatment center presented him with a gift basket filled with some of his favorite items: barbeque supplies; including a chef’s hat and apron, dry rub and barbeque utensils. He also received gift cards for dinner and a movie, a night out he plans to enjoy with his wife.

“WellSpring didn’t have to do that for me,” Barnes says. “If they didn’t, I had already been treated so kindly, so professionally already, I would’ve still thought the world of them.”

Barnes worked in the medical field as an orderly during college and saw first hand how important it was to patients to see that someone truly cares.

“It was a sobering experience, finding myself as the patient,” he says. “I live only minutes away from the Pinellas cancer treatment center and used to pass it all the time; but I’ve never needed them until now. I truly feel privileged to have been treated at WellSpring Oncology. Talking to them is like talking to family; the doctors, nurses and greeting staff remember everyone’s first name, not because they have to, but because they truly care. That is very rare these days and it has honestly been one of the highlights of my life.”

Barnes was so impressed with the Pinellas cancer treatment center’s ability to maintain that standard of quality so consistently, that he decided he wanted to be part of it. He plans to volunteer at WellSpring Oncology’s next community awareness event, just to give back.

“I wish other medical institutions, even businesses in general, could care enough to do what WellSpring does every day,” he says. “You’ve got one chance to make a first impression, but they make that impression every time. The lengths they go to in order to make us comfortable is wonderful: comfy chairs, snacks, widescreen TV, all of those things matter a great deal. All I can say is ‘Wow’.”

About WellSpring Oncology:
Doctors Robert Miller, Zucel Solc and Frank Franzese opened the doors of WellSpring Oncology in the spring of 2008 to provide high-end treatment in a more personal and caring environment. The doctors at WellSpring Oncology have been practicing innovative radiation therapy since the 1970’s and developed the center to ensure patients have access to the latest technology available in the treatment of cancer. WellSpring Oncology’s physicians are all Board Certified in radiation oncology and received their training at the top centers in the country, including MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the University of California, San Francisco. WellSpring Oncology is located at 6600 Sixty Sixth Street North in Pinellas Park, Florida.

For more information or to make an appointment, contact WellSpring Oncology at (727) 343-0600 or visit them online at www.WellSpringOncology.org.

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November 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm

A QUIET CANCER

Local oncologists encourage women to get screened for cervical cancer for National Cervical Health Awareness Month

Pinellas Park, Fla. — If you were told that you could prevent a certain type of cancer, wouldn’t you take every step to do so? Cervical cancer is one of the most common reproductive cancers in females, but women can take steps to greatly reduce their risk of developing it. In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, local oncologists make efforts to encourage women to take charge of their health and get screened for this largely preventable cancer.

“Many cervical cancer cases could be prevented, or at least caught early, if all women received proper screening for this disease,” says Robert Miller, M.D., oncologist at Wellspring Oncology in Pinellas Park. “Simply visiting your gynecologist once a year can greatly reduce a woman’s risk.”

Though cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, cases have dropped significantly over the past 50 years. This sharp decrease is largely due to the development of better medical screening for women.  Still, this year approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Nearly one-third of these women will not survive this disease.

Am I At Risk?

“Cervical cancer doesn’t discriminate,” says Miller. “All women of all ages are at risk for developing the disease. However, there are certain factors that can increase a woman’s risk.”

The most common cause of cervical cancer is the human papilloma virus, or HPV. This virus is passed from one person to another through sexual contact and can infect the cervix. However, for most women, HPV will go away on its own without ever causing cervical cancer. Only a very small amount of women infected with HPV will develop cancer of the cervix.

While HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, it is not the only factor that can increase a woman’s risk. Other known risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Extended use of birth control pills
  • Giving birth to three or more children
  • Multiple sexual partners or sexual activity at a young age
  • HIV or other immune system disorders
  • Irregular screening history

The best ways to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer is through regular pap tests to screen for precancerous cervical cells and by following-up with your doctor, should the test come back abnormal. Also, always practice safe sex by using a condom, don’t smoke and consider an HPV vaccine to protect yourself against the virus.

A Quiet Cancer

Generally there are no symptoms associated with earlier stages of cervical cancer. Some of the first signs of more advanced cancer include irregular vaginal bleeding, heavier or longer-lasting menstrual periods and abnormal vaginal discharge. As the cancer progresses, the patient may experience painful urination, fatigue, weight loss, a dull backache or swelling of the legs.

“Early stages of cervical cancer very rarely involve any pain or symptoms,” says Miller. “Even the symptoms a woman may experience from more advanced stages are often thought to be something less serious. It is a very quiet cancer.”

“However, cervical cancer is also highly treatable when found early,” Miller continues. “Depending on the best treatment for the patient, whether radiation, chemotherapy or surgery, early stages can be treated and result in a long survival rate and good quality of life. This is why regular screening to catch it in the earlier stages is so important.”

About WellSpring Oncology: Doctors Robert Miller, Zucel Solc and Frank Franzese opened the doors of WellSpring Oncology in spring of 2008 to provide high-end treatment in a more personal and caring environment.  The doctors at WellSpring Oncology have been practicing innovative radiation therapy since the 1970’s and developed the center to ensure patients have access to the latest technology available in the treatment of cancer.  The doctors of WellSpring Oncology are all board-certified in radiation oncology and received their training at the top centers in the country, including MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the University of California San Francisco.

WellSpring Oncology is located at 6600 Sixty Sixth Street North in Pinellas Park, Florida.  For more information, contact WellSpring Oncology at (727) 343-0600 or visit them online at www.wellspringoncology.org.

January 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Summer Sun, Summer Fun, Summer Safety – Skin Cancer is the Most Common Form of Cancer in the US

90% of skin cancer cases are due to sun exposure- How can you reduce your risk?

Our skin is our largest organ. It protects us from injury, infections, and regulates our body’s temperature. It stores water, fat, and Vitamin D. But for the one in five Americans who will be diagnosed with skin cancer within the next year, skin is a painful reminder of past sun damage.

More than 90 percent of skin cancer is caused by sun exposure, when sun damage may be the easiest to prevent. Everyone knows the basics to sun safety: wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15 or higher), cover-up with hats, t-shirts, sunglasses and stay in the shade. If sun protection is common sense, then why is skin cancer the most common form of cancer?

Recognize the Risk
Robert Miller, M.D. of Wellspring Oncology weighs in, “Most people are surprised to learn that even UV exposure over short periods of time can still dramatically increase the risk for cancer.” For those with lighter skin tones, a family history of skin cancer and an experience of severe sunburns earlier in life, skin cancer is a very real possibility. Dr. Miller advises, “Skin care is a relatively simple concept; if your skin burns easily – stay out of the sun!”

Due to the amount of sun damage that can accumulate earlier in life, children and teens need to be protected. “Many cases of cancer are connected to severe burns from the adolescent stage in life,” says Dr. Miller. “Men are also twice as likely to develop skin cancer than women. It is the most common form of cancer in men over 50.”

Manage the Damage
Once the harm is done, it is impossible to erase. However, people can still make lifestyle changes now that will reduce their risk for the longer term. “Even if you know you have a high risk for cancer because of past UV exposure, you can start taking preventative measures now. That’s better than never taking any preventative measures at all,” says Dr. Miller. “It’s also important to get checked regularly. Any small lumps, irregular moles, abnormal patches of skin or sore sports on the skin’s surface, along with any new growths need to be assessed by a doctor.”

But there is still hope, even after a diagnosis. Dr. Miller offers that, “Newer radiation technology enables us to treat skin cancer in six days. There is no scarring, no hospital stays and minimal side effects.”

Save Your Skin
Dr. Miller still advises, “There is no such thing as a safe tan that involves any form of UV exposure. Darker pigmentation is the skin’s way of protecting itself- it signifies damage. The only safe tan is a sunless tan.”
So even after a life of excessive sun exposure, you can still change sun-worshipping habits to save your skin. Most tanning salons now offer a form of sunless spray tanning that involves no UV exposure at all. There are even lotions and at-home sprays to give you a safe summer glow all year long.

Additional resources gathered from: The American Cancer Society

For more information, contact WellSpring Oncology at (727) 343-0600 or visit them online at www.wellspringoncology.org.

May 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

WellSpring Patient on NBC’s Today Show

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

May 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Thea Wilson’s Survival Story

By: MOMSTERjane
As if the topic of cancer wasn’t bad enough: Imagine a cancer that not only changed everything in your life, but was actually a cancer that you were too embarrassed to even say out loud, because that particular disease invaded your most personal, intimate areas?

Thea Wilson, a 51-year-old, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in March 2009–during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, in fact. Thea and her husband, Tom, are both registered nurses at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg, Florida, but having a medical background didn’t make receiving the news any easier. “We chose to have a friend, who happened to be a surgeon, help keep us grounded. We needed someone who was not as deeply and emotionally involved to give us the information, and to tell us the types of decisions we had to make and what our timeframe was,” said Thea.

How the diagnosis happened: Thea’s menstrual cycles were coming closer together and were heavier than normal. She was also experiencing–for the first time ever–discomfort in her back. So she saw her gynecologist for a series of exams, but all the results came back OK. Even though Thea had no family history of colon cancer, her gynecologist suggested she get a colonoscopy, just to be safe. “Thank Heavens for the good GYN practitioners,” said Thea.

After the screening, Thea appeared to have a stage-four tumor in her colon. “I was told to get my affairs in order, because it didn’t look good,” said Thea, who kept thinking of how this would all affect her darling nine-year-old daughter Anna, the little girl she’d waited a lifetime for. “I wanted to watch her grow up,” said Thea.

Thea and Tom decided to tell Anna the whole truth. “There’s always that possibility of death and how wrong would it have been of me as a parent to not let her have a hint of that. I told her everyone was working really hard to make Mommy better and that we were going to put our best foot forward,” said Thea.

After a week of PET scans and CAT scans, the tumor was downgraded to Stage 3 with lymph node involvement. Her medical team devised a plan of action. She’d have an intestinal surgery called a diverting ileostomy and then six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. “I had an unusual response to the chemo,” said Thea. “Every joint was swollen about three times the size. It was the freakiest thing and very painful.”

Through it all, Wilson felt comforted by the quality care she received at WellSpring Oncology Cancer Center in Pinellas Park, Florida. “They never rushed me. They offered me support with open arms, giving me time to work through my issues. It was just phenomenal.”

“Thea is such an incredibly strong, vibrant, and confidant woman,” said WellSpring oncologist, Zucel Solc, M.D. “She persevered through her entire battle and made many friends here at the center. We wanted to do anything and everything in our ability to get her back to her normal life again–where she could touch her patients the way she touched us.”

Thea also found strength by reading uplifting messages from friends and family members on the site caringbridge.org.

Soon enough, Thea was in remission. “I was so thankful for the news,” said Thea. But it was hard to believe at first–she had to sit on it for a little while before it settled in. The whole experience has taught Thea how important it is as a nurse to show compassion for her patients. “Now I turn up the volume to make sure I’m truly hearing what my patients need. I want to be certain I’m helping them in the same way I was helped,” said Thea.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a patient after they’ve been declared in remission. We are so happy for Thea,” said Dr. Solc.

This post from

May 5, 2010 at 11:24 am

Dr. Robert Miller on NBC’s Daytime

March 3, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Toss the embarrassment aside and save lives…

… just by talking about it – one woman did

For March’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, one local woman speaks out on the disease

 (Pinellas Park, Fla.) March 1, 2010 – If the topic of cancer wasn’t bad enough, imagine a cancer that not only changed everything in your life but was actually a cancer that you were too embarrassed to even say out loud because that particular disease invaded your most personal, intimate areas? The one reason breast cancer is so easily and publically discussed is because one person, unashamed, unabashed spoke out, creating a world-wind of change in awareness and education among many. One woman is doing just that for March’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. 

Thea Wilson, 51 years-old, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer exactly one year ago on March 5 – during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Wilson and her husband are both registered nurses in St. Petersburg – but having a medical background didn’t make the news any easier.  “We chose to have a friend, who happened to be a surgeon as well, help to keep us grounded. We needed someone who was not as deeply and emotionally involved give us the information, give us the type of decisions we had and the timeframe we had to make the decisions,” said Wilson.

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in America. There are over 655,000 deaths worldwide per year, according to the World Health Organization. Wilson was diagnosed at the exact age that is recommended to begin screenings for this disease. Fortunately for Wilson, she listened to her body. Her menstrual cycles were coming closer together and were heavier than normal. She was experiencing a lot of discomfort in her back – something she never experienced before.

Wilson went to see her gynecologist for an exam and all came back OK. She wondered about the discomfort, so they did a vaginal ultrasound. Again, all came back OK. Wilson had no family history of the disease and really had no other reason to get a screening although her GYN suggested it. “Thank Heavens for the good GYN practitioners,” said Wilson who a couple days later tested positive.

After visiting her primary physician and a gastroenterologist she went in for her colonoscopy. “God forbid you take off work to take care of yourself,” said Wilson after pursuing the advice of her doctors for tests during a one-week vacation she opted to take from work. After her colonoscopy, Wilson tested positive for a large colon tumor that appeared to be in a stage four cancer. “I was told to get my affairs in order because it didn’t look good,” said Wilson. Calling herself an “AARP Parent,” (American Association of Retired Persons) with her still strong sense of humor, Wilson’s gravest thoughts were on her nine-year-old daughter that she waited a lifetime for. “My heart was stopping; I waited a lifetime for this baby of mine – finally I have my daughter and now I won’t get to watch her grow-up.”

Wilson and her husband decided to tell their daughter, Anna, the whole truth. “There’s always that possibility of death and how wrong would it have been of me as parent to not let her have a hint of that. I laid it all out for her but not in FULL detail. I told her everyone was working really hard to make Mommy better,” said Wilson, “We’re going to put our best foot forward.”

After a slew of medical visits – PET scans and CAT scans – all, “fell into place brilliantly,” said Wilson. In less than a week her illness was pinpointed and a plan of action was taken from her medical team. Wilson was scheduled for surgery: a diverting ileostomy (surgical opening constructed by bringing the end or loop of the small intestine (the ileum) out into the surface of the skin where waste is collected into an external pouch system stuck to the skin), then chemotherapy for six weeks and radiation therapy every day for five days a week – Monday through Friday.

During a five week rest period, Wilson thought she could handle it all but wasn’t quite sure after the chemotherapy. “It was horrendous. I had an unusual response to the chemotherapy – every joint was swollen about three times the size as normal. It was the freakiest thing and very painful,” she said, “But I knew I was under good care, everyone worked so hard to get me feeling better again.”

While undergoing radiation treatment, Wilson was comforted by an entire squad of medical professionals that she said was just “incredible.” Wilson received radiation treatment at WellSpring Oncology Cancer Center in Pinellas Park. “The caregivers along the way were exceptional. If Obama needs a model of healthcare, a place for him to look is WellSpring,” says Wilson, “There were days that I thought I could not do treatment but there, I wasn’t rushed. I could sit aside and all offered caring arms, giving me time to work through my issue for that day. It was just phenomenal.”

“Thea is such an incredibly strong, vibrant, confidant woman,” said WellSpring oncologist, Zucel Solc, M.D., “She persevered through her entire battle and made many friends here at the center. We wanted to do anything and everything in our ability to get her back to her normal life again – where she can touch her patients the way she touched us.”

Wilson soon saw the light at the end of the tunnel – “They put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” she said. Wilson was in remission.When they told me about me being in remission – it’s almost the same as when you hear you have cancer,” she said – allowing the shock to settle in. “I was so thankful for the news. But I was going to sit on this for a little then get giddy about it later.”

Wilson took her “transfusions of love” from family, friends and a support system online that allowed loved ones to leave her messages on a website called, CaringBridge.org.

This whole experience has taught Wilson how important it was for her as an RN to continue showing compassion and care for all her own patients. She was always more than a nurse to her patients before but now she says she plans to “turn-up the volume even more” to truly hear what they need and how she can help – the way she was helped.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a patient after they’ve been declared in remission. We are so happy for Thea,” said Dr. Solc. 

Risk Factors of Colon Cancer:

  • Age 50 or older.
  • A family history of cancer of the colon or rectum.
  • A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or breast.
  • A history of polyps in the colon.

Signs or symptoms of Colon Cancer:

  • A change in bowel habits.
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool.
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.
  • Stools that are narrower than usual.
  • General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps).
  • Weight loss with no known reason.
  • Constant tiredness.
  • Vomiting.

 About WellSpring Oncology:  Doctors Robert Miller, Zucel Solc and Frank Franzese opened the doors of WellSpring Oncology in spring of 2008 to provide high-end treatment in a more personal and caring environment.  The doctors at WellSpring Oncology have been practicing innovative radiation therapy since the 1970’s and developed the center to ensure patients have access to the latest technology available in the treatment of cancer.  The doctors of WellSpring Oncology are all board-certified in radiation oncology and received their training at the top centers in the country, including MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the University of California San Francisco. 

WellSpring Oncology is located at 6600 Sixty Sixth Street North in Pinellas Park, Florida.  For more information, contact WellSpring Oncology at (727) 343-0600 or visit them online at www.wellspringoncology.org.

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March 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm

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