Spring 2014
Ask the expert: Surgical oncology

Sajid Khan, MD

Q&A about surgical oncology with Sajid Khan, MD, surgical oncologist, Bridgeport Hospital and assistant professor, department of Surgery, section of surgical oncology, Yale School of Medicine

What is a surgical oncologist?
A.
Surgical oncologists are not only specialized in how to technically perform cancer surgery, but also at understanding the biology behind the cancer we treat. Surgical oncology requires levels of expertise not only in cancer surgery, but also in how to understand and incorporate fundamental principles of medical oncology, radiation oncology, palliative care and gastroenterology to provide the best outcome for each patient. Fellowship-trained surgical oncologists receive additional specialized training in cancer surgery after general surgery training.

What types of cancer does a surgical oncologist treat?
A.
Surgical oncologists treat patients diagnosed with all gastrointestinal tumors such as malignant and pre-malignant lesions of the pancreas, stomach, colon, liver and bile ducts. We also treat skin cancers such as melanoma, soft tissue tumors such as sarcomas and breast cancer.

How are these types of cancers treated at Bridgeport Hospital?
A.
It is important to note the role of multidisciplinary tumor boards in cancer care. These boards or panels consist of individuals from various medical disciplines who regularly meet and discuss cancer patients to reach agreement on the best course of treatment. Complex and detailed planning is required to care for a patient before, during and after a cancer operation. Multidisciplinary care is one of the most, if not the most important part of treating cancer patients. This is how oncology is practiced at Bridgeport Hospital and by the Yale section of surgical oncology.

When should someone see a surgical oncologist?
A.
Generally speaking, individuals with a pre-malignant or malignant solid tumor should see a surgical oncologist. These include patients with tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, breast, skin and soft tissues. Often, a patient is referred to us through the individual’s primary care provider, gastroenterologist, medical oncologist or dermatologist. These providers are intricately involved in diagnostic work-up and we see patients because of their diligent work.

What brought you to Bridgeport Hospital?
A.
The leadership of Bridgeport Hospital is dedicated to providing top-notch patient care. As a member of the Yale department of Surgery, I was asked to join to extend the services of Yale’s surgical oncology to Bridgeport Hospital. This was a fantastic opportunity provided by the leadership in New Haven and Bridgeport.

What captivated me about Bridgeport is the enthusiasm and collegial working atmosphere among astute medical providers to deliver first-rate cancer care. Their leadership and hard work provides a solid foundation on which to build a top-quality surgical oncology program at Bridgeport Hospital.

How does Bridgeport Hospital’s affiliation with Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) benefit cancer patients?
A.
Bridgeport Hospital’s affiliation with YNHHS gives cancer patients in Bridgeport and greater Fairfield County convenient access to the same high-quality surgery, multi-modality care and clinical trials as patients who are treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital. There is enthusiasm to expand the services of Yale-New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Hospital to Bridgeport and I am fortunate to be one of the surgeons creating the bridge between both institutions.