Dealing With The Unknown: New Clinic At RPCI Helps Zero In On Cancer Diagnoses

BUFFALO, NY — Recognizing an opportunity to improve the efficiency of diagnosis and care of cancer for people living in and around Western New York, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has implemented a clinic for patients with suspected cancer, called the Undiagnosed Cancer Clinic. Launched just over a year ago, the clinic has become an important new resource for primary care providers and their patients in cases where cancer is suspected but a clear diagnosis is not indicated by symptom presentation and/or diagnostic tests.

Staffed by a team that includes primary care physician Martin C. Mahoney, MD, PhD Roswell Park’s Undiagnosed Cancer Clinic handles cases where cancer is suspected or where an abnormality is found on an X-ray or CT scan that is consistent with cancer, but further testing and a biopsy is needed to confirm what type of cancer it is.

In those cases, said Dr. Mahoney, an Associate Professor in the Departments of Health Behavior and Medicine, valuable time can be lost as care providers try to determine what to do next, and which type of biopsy may be the least invasive and yield rapid results. Sometimes patients can be referred from specialist to specialist in the effort to nail down a diagnosis. Drawing on the resources of a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including radiologists, pathologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons and general surgeons, Roswell Park’s Undiagnosed Cancer Clinic can significantly shorten that process — by quickly obtaining a biopsy using the most appropriate method, making a diagnosis, and referring the patient for care with one of our disease-site experts.

“It’s about efficiency and decreased wait times for these patients and their families, and the ability to drill down to what the issue is,” said Dr. Mahoney. “We’re able to offer the comprehensive and complementary services of a team devoted to cancer diagnosis and care and to set the patients on an appropriate treatment plan — or refer them back to their primary care provider in those cases where we don’t confirm a cancer diagnosis, or where a course of watchful waiting is warranted.”

“The clinic appropriately and effectively uses the resources we have here within the Institute to get these patients diagnosed and set on a treatment course as quickly as possible,” added Alex Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, Senior Vice President of Clinical Research at Roswell Park, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine and Katherine Anne Gioia Chair in Cancer Medicine.

Roswell Park’s Undiagnosed Cancer Clinic also serves patients who are concerned about symptoms they’re experiencing but who have not yet consulted a physician.

“If the patient has had a biopsy that has indicated cancer, they’re going to be referred to the appropriate clinic for that particular disease site,” said Dr. Mahoney. “But when someone calls and says, ‘My doctor thinks I have colon cancer,’ or ‘I have a neck lump, and I don’t know what it is,’ then they’ll be seen in the Clinic, where we’ll focus in on determining a diagnosis.”

For more information about Roswell Park’s Undiagnosed Cancer Clinic or to request an appointment, please call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355).

Roswell Park is included on U.S. News & World Report’s 2010-11 listing of the Best Hospitals for cancer care. In addition, AARP The Magazine in 2009 cited Roswell Park among the eight institutions it identified as the best hospitals in the nation for complex or “extremely difficult” cases of cancer.

The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Roswell Park, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit Roswell Park’s website at, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email


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