Shawnee Mission Cancer Center getting backup from top cancer center in US

MERRIAM, Kan. -- For many cancer patients, getting a second opinion is optimal.

To get one from a world leader in cancer care that had one of its scientists win a Nobel Prize this week would be ideal. But the travel to get to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas is not.

Now, patients at Shawnee Mission Health have a solution.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Bren Willhite on Friday. “I’ve come a long way.”

For years, Willhite ran.

“I was getting ready to do the Boulder Ironman,” she said. That's when she found a lump in her breast.

So she ran to the doctor, and that quickly lead to a Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis.

“And that is why it was so shocking,” she said. “I was in the best shape of my life. I felt perfectly fine. You never think it could happen to you.”

And from that April day on, Willhite’s been running a marathon.

But any runner knows you don’t train alone. She has a team to support her.

Her oncologist at Shawnee Mission Health has her own team. In November 2017, Shawnee Mission Cancer Center partnered with M.D. Anderson.

“They’re the number one cancer center for the world,” explained Dr. Tracy Miles, Willhite’s oncologist.

“When a patient is seen at Shawnee Mission Cancer Center, they can rest assured that the level of care they’re receiving is on par with M.D. Anderson in Houston,” Miles explained.

“We evaluate every new oncology case with our peers at M.D. Anderson to make sure we’re following best practices and we’re aligned with them,” she continued.

Via teleconferencing, phone calls, intranet and the like, physicians in Merriam speak with global thought-leaders at an internationally acclaimed institution.

“And this second opinion, it’s at no cost to the patient,” Miles said.

“So they have the ability to stay local, have their local support, but yet get best practice from M.D. Anderson," she continued. "So we’ve taken a local, community cancer program, and we’ve raised the standard of care by aligning with though leaders in the field of oncology.”

Because it’s a long race to the finish line. It shouldn’t involve a detour to Texas.

Willhite is blogging about her experience, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to support her.

To read more about Shawnee Mission’s partnership with M.D. Anderson, visit this site.

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