By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — When officials with Slidell Memorial first opened the Regional Cancer Center over a year ago, they promised it was the first step in an ongoing effort to provide as much cancer treatment in Slidell as possible.
A recent announcement of a partnership with three doctors from the Tulane University School of Medicine is one very big step in that direction, especially when considering the credentials Dr. Paul Friedlander brings to Slidell.
Friedlander is joined by Dr. Ernest S. Chiu and Dr. Rizwan Aslam as new members of the SMH Cancer Center team, and all three physicians are now seeing patients in Slidell.
Friedlander is one of the first in the state to perform robotic-assisted oral surgery for head and neck cancers, while Chiu and Friedlander recently developed a surgical technique to reconstruct the pharyngeal and esophageal lining of patients who have had a significant portion of their neck and larynx removed, as part of their cancer treatment.
In the past, patients who had that surgery without restorative work in that critical area of the body were left unable to swallow or speak normally.
Friedlander has received national and international recognition for his research and work with head and neck cancers, which account for approximately 6 percent of all cancers.
“I got interested in that area of specialty since a mentor of mine was an ear, nose and throat doctor,” he said. “I have known Bruce Clement (SMH Chief Operating Officer) for many years and have worked with Dr. Steven Hightower, so I followed the progress in building the SMH Cancer Center.
“Since I have always had a lot of Slidell patients, I was really happy for the opportunity to begin seeing patients here and provide more of their cancer care at home,” he said.
Friedlander has published over two dozen articles involving his work, and is performing studies on many different cancers to try and find best protocols in treating the thousands of cases his profession faces.
“Every cancer is different, and every one requires different treatment,” he said. “That’s the challenge for any physician—finding the best treatment for each specific situation.”
While Friedlander, as the expert, certainly will propose a treatment to a cancer patient, the 48-year-old emphasized over-and-over that the decision on any treatment belongs to the patient.
“People come to see doctors for a reason—we are trained to provide advice for treatment of cancer,” he said. “But ultimately, every decision is up to the individual. Sometimes the right decision is to take no action.
“But that’s my job, to advise them on what alternatives there are to consider,” he said.
Friedlander performed his residency at Georgetown University and LSU, then had a residency at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, along with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC.
While working at LSU in 1997, Friedlander was responsible for collecting clinical information and samples on 250 patients with head and neck cancers. He continues to perform research work and is currently investigating the possible role of the Hepatitis C virus as a factor in the development of head and neck cancers.
“We made a promise to bring this region everything a patient needs for cancer diagnosis and care in one location,” Slidell Memorial CEO Bill Davis said. “As you can see, we are continuing to aggressively increase the range of cancer services to families of the north shore and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Patients who see any of the three head and neck specialists will have treatment and office visits in Slidell, with all care coordinated at SMH. Any surgery needed will be performed at Tulane.