Thanks to Providence Medford Medical Center’s new thoracic clinic, Frank Josephson’s lung cancer was diagnosed and treated quickly. Some patients with troublesome symptoms can wait up to four to six weeks to be seen by a specialist. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Thoracic clinic speeds the process

When it comes to cancer, early diagnosis and treatment can save lives. One of the first patients seen at Providence Medford Medical Center's new thoracic clinic says expediting care also eliminates the strain of living with the unknown.

A few months ago, Frank Josephson, 92, of Medford, was coughing up blood. He was about to become one of the approximately 200 people diagnosed with lung cancer in Southern Oregon each year.

"I noticed the blood for a while, but I didn't want to worry her," Josephson said, nodding at his wife, Lucille, 89.

The former sawmill worker said he went to a doctor in Central Point and was told there was nothing wrong. Not convinced, Josephson went to another doctor who referred him to the thoracic clinic.

"They got him right in," said Lucille Josephson.

The new clinic is designed to reduce the patient's wait time from an initial suspicious finding or symptom to medical treatment, said Dr. Mark Lupinetti, a thoracic surgeon at Providence.

An opportunity to talk on the phone can sometimes give patients relief from fears or direction for follow-up, he said.

During their clinic appointment, patients receive prompt diagnostic work-up and staging of their cancer, access to cancer specialists and education, and treatment options, including thoracic surgery.

In addition to Providence, participating providers at the thoracic clinic include Radiation Oncology Consultants, Hematology Oncology Associates and Pulmonary Associates.

"We're bringing the specialists together to see the patient," said Lupinetti.

The most common medical issues seen at the clinic are lung cancer patients, former tuberculosis patients, or patients with scarring on lungs or fluid in lungs, Lupinetti said.

A patient who is coughing up blood or has a shadow on a chest X-ray (which may or may not be cancer) often waits up to four to six weeks to be seen by a specialist. Now a clinic visit can be scheduled within four to six business days, he said.

"We allow patients to get the certainty of a diagnosis and a treatment plan," Lupinetti said.

Lucille Josephson, a fellow cancer survivor, said the streamlined diagnosis and treatment plan made life a lot less stressful for the two of them.

"It's the greatest thing," she said. "You just cannot believe the relief you get when you don't have to be driving around to four doctors. Especially when you don't feel good."

On June 4, Josephson entered the clinic. Within 12 hours he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and received orders for several radiation treatments.

"I had a cancer the size of a golf ball," he said. "I'll have my last radiation treatment on Monday."

Throughout the ordeal, the Josephsons have maintained their sense of humor.

"He does his yard work. And I made the doctor promise he wouldn't stop doing dishes," she said.

Her husband is already back to working in his garden and playing poker with his buddies, she added.

The radiation has tired him out a bit, Frank Josephson admitted.

"I sure don't feel 92 years old. I sure don't," he said. "I feel 101."

Patients are generally referred to the clinic by their primary physician. But Lupinetti said the clinic welcomes calls from doctors or potential patients.

"We are happy to take phone consultations," he said.

If you would like more information about the Providence clinic, call 732-5082.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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