Race to Beat Cancer 5K

About the Race

Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC is proud to host the 38th annual Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC Race to Beat Cancer 5K. This charitable event is one of the premier 5K races in Washington, DC and is held on Saturday, September 15, 2018.

This 5K race in Washington, DC raises funds and awareness for cancer research at the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, celebrates survivors, and honors those who have lost their battles with cancer.

Last year,  we raised more than $300,000 in the fight against cancer. What are you waiting for? This year, join the Washington, DC community as we promote healthy lifestyles and continue the fight to #BeatCancer. Strollers and dogs are welcome!


Sign Up Today!

Register as a solo runner: https://bit.ly/2sh1PeG

Register as a team: http://bit.ly/2rrg13S


The Edge® Radiosurgery System for Cancer Treatment

How it works:

The Edge® radiosurgery system opens the door for a non-invasive alternative to conventional surgery. With an eye toward improving treatment ease and convenience, patients can expect a more comfortable experience because the procedure is non-invasive with no incision needed. Normally an outpatient procedure, Edge treatments are typically completed within the same week taking only 1 – 5 sessions. Each session lasts less than an hour, which helps patients to quickly get in and out of treatment, reducing hospital stays and allowing them to resume their lives.

With the Edge radiosurgery system, a wide range of tumors that are typically difficult to reach with traditional surgery can be targeted and treated with power and precision. The Edge system works by delivering large, targeted doses of radiation to obliterate cancer cells. To accurately deliver the recommended amount of radiation, the beam treats each part of the tumor from many different angles. Using precise beam sculpting and a real-time tracking system, clinicians are able to deliver high radiation doses to destroy the tumor while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

The Edge Difference

The Edge® radiosurgery system offers a new line of defense in the fight against cancer. Using advanced cancer treatment technology, the Edge® system offers patients a fast, effective surgical option for treating tumors without incisions or the need for overnight hospital stays. It may be used to treat tumors found in the lung, prostate, brain, spine and other indications throughout the body. The Edge Radiosurgery system uses a real-time tumor tracking system so clinicians can detect slight tumor movement, thus potentially minimizing the radiation dose to surrounding healthy tissue.

Why choose the Edge Radiosurgery system:

  • Edge’s knife-like beam provides surgeons with the agility to treat tumors that are typically difficult to reach surgically.
  • Edge protects surrounding healthy tissue by using advanced motion management techniques that help detect even slight tumor movement.
  • Edge patients are able to continue with their daily lives because treatment sessions typically last less than an hour, and require neither hospital stays nor incisions.


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With Early Detection, Prostate Cancer Is Treatable

For men approaching the age of 40, as well as those who have already crossed that milestone, prostate cancer is one of the most talked-about health issues today. Prostate cancer is diagnosed more frequently than skin cancer and is second only to lung cancer in leading causes of cancer death in men. And according to a recent study from Northwestern University, more men than ever before are being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, where the cancer has spread to another place in the body, speaking to a need for “nationwide refinement” around prostate screenings and treatments.

Stark as these numbers may be, don't let such information frighten you. Prostate cancer is not only common, it’s also treatable with an early diagnosis.

Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

The average age for a prostate cancer diagnosis in men is 66 years old, and it is not seen typically before the age of 40. It should be noted, however, that African-American men represent a high-risk group for prostate cancer and are 1.6 times more likely to receive such a diagnosis than a Caucasian male. Also, they are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age, with a higher rate of mortality.

While there are different schools of thought around why African-American men are more prone to prostate cancer, including differences in tissue genetics, nothing has been proven with any certainty to date.

What Treatment Options Are Available?

The mortality rate for prostate cancer is approximately one in 39 men, which speaks to the fact that treatment of the disease at an early stage can prevent prostate-cancer related death. Various treatment options exist, including surgical removal of the prostate (prostatectomy), radiation therapy or cryotherapy.  These options will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in each modality, with the choice of treatment being individualized for each patient’s specific case. 

No matter the course chosen, early detection is the key to reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer. Once it has spread to a patient’s lymph nodes or bones, the cancer becomes more difficult to treat. (Although in those cases, chemotherapy and hormone therapy may still be able to help extend the life of a patient.)

It’s Treatable When Caught Early

Since early detection is so critical to the treatment of prostate cancer, one of the most common questions men have is when - or how often - they should be screened. Screening options include a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

If you’re in a high-risk group - either due to age, family history or other factors - you should speak with your doctor about what is best for you, as there is uncertainty around whether the risk of unnecessary treatment is outweighed by the potential benefits of screening.

Life After Prostate Cancer

Men who undergo successful treatment for their prostate cancer can be left with some degree of erectile dysfunction or problems with urination. The good news is that treatments exist for these problems and can help prostate cancer survivors maintain fulfilling, active lives with maintained, positive outcomes for their urinary and sexual health.

While the prospect of a prostate cancer diagnosis can be stressful, know that it is common and treatable. So with early detection, you can spend more time being focused on treatment and recovery.

Have questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about MedStar Washington Hospital Center, call us at 202-877-3627.

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Helping Cancer Survivors through Art

Calming Unsettled Waters

Cancer survivors can find themselves in a ghostly (and ghastly) space that is not quite grounded in the reality of yesterday or the hard presence of today. Even for long-term survivors, the anticipation of the “other shoe” dropping is an ever-present hurdle to glide or climb over, depending on the day – or the hour.

Dozens of cancer survivors of all lengths and strengths put worry and uncertainty on hold for a few hours July 5 at MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s joyful kickoff of PaintFest® America, a 50-day event sponsored by The Foundation for Hospital Art to reach families, patients, and staff of cancer facilities through artwork. To view photos from the event, please click here.

The concept is deceptively simple and calming: dip the slim paintbrush in the miniature paint bottle that matches the pre-drawn, color-coded designs on canvas stretched over square wooden frames, and let your mind find its safe place.

A Welcome Distraction 

Beverly Pollard, of Northeast Washington, a two-year survivor of breast cancer, found PaintFest® a welcome distraction from a friend’s breast cancer surgery, which was taking place at the Hospital Center, while she waited and painted.

As she carefully placed long gold strokes on the canvas depicting a mountain scene, Ms. Pollard explained she was diagnosed with breast cancer during a mammogram the day she returned from a mission trip to Africa. After her diagnosis, the mother of four foster children said, “I asked God to show me a purpose. But, you have to be careful about what you ask God to use you for! He asked me to be an encourager.” She smiled, gratefully. One of her great joys in life is to help friends with cancer find their purpose.

Upper Marlboro resident John Belk took time off from work and made the trip simply to give thanks and “give back” a measure of the encouragement he received during his 44 radiation treatments and six months of hormone therapy for prostate cancer. Clad in the thin white plastic protective apron, he spent the better part of an hour in quiet meditation, deliberately painting inside the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Family members are cancer survivors, too. Regina Zellars of Clinton, Md., was most grateful for the space to calm her mind, as her 26-year-old daughter was taking chemotherapy for mycosis fungoides, a form of T-cell lymphoma. “It’s therapy for me,” Ms. Zellars said, smiling as she bent over a square of canvas featuring tropical fish. “I am so happy to see you all out here. You need to get away in your mind sometimes.”

Survivorship has been an interesting and creative place for artist Anna U Davis. Born in Sweden, the 41-year-old District resident was diagnosed with stage 2 multifocal invasive breast cancer at age 37. Her art has been an important outlet for her emotional well being. She began drawing a journal, a series of works depicting her journey.

“It was difficult to go back and re-live it,” she said of the project. “The fear gets less, but there are moments….”  Ms. Davis has partnered with her husband Peter on the project. He is creating raised wood cuttings from her artwork.

A History of Helping

For more than 30 years, The Foundation for Hospital Art has been dedicated to “softening the hospital environment with colorful paintings, wall murals and ceiling tiles,” according to Scott Feight, executive director of the foundation. The 48 canvases will create eight murals that will be sent to hospitals in the D.C. area and around the country.

Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about cancer care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center call 202-877-3627. and you can view our PaintFest® America photo album HERE.

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A Breast Cancer Diagnosis: It Takes Your Breath Away

Breast Cancer Can Affect Anyone 

My name is Heidi Kirby. (Photo L to R:  Dr. Sandra Swain, former medical director of Washington Cancer Institute and current Associate Dean for Research Development at Georgetown University Medical Center and Heidi)  I am young. I am healthy. I have no family history of breast cancer, yet, somehow I found myself with the phone against my ear, being told that's what I had. For anyone touched by this disease, you know how powerless you can feel.  For anyone being told they have cancer, it takes your breath away.

My story is nothing special.  In fact, my story happens every day and can happen to anyone at any age. When I first felt something different in 2014, I was preparing to run in the annual Race to Beat Cancer 5K, sponsored by my former employer, The Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. All the proceeds benefit cancer research at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I was focused on the run, therefore not that concerned. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of that year, I went from denial to anger and back to denial over and over. During this stressful period, I reached out to my close work family, and because of their long-standing relationship with the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I was put in touch with an oncologist so that I could start treatment right away. The wonderful doctors and medical professionals were determined to make me well. I'm happy to say that I am now cancer free and I know that my risk of recurrence is low.

Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment

I'm constantly amazed by the advances in cancer research, science and technology. I recently learned the Washington Cancer Institute at the Hospital Center offers intraoperative radiation therapy for a select group of breast cancer patients with small tumors, in which a single dose of radiation is delivered after lumpectomy, as opposed to standard radiation treatment over several weeks. In addition, physicians are studying chemotherapy–free options for metastatic breast cancer patients. Progress like this is possible thanks in large part to public and private donations.

I never imagined having to ask so many people to help me.  I never thought I would celebrate a genetic test result. Of course, I never thought I would need a genetic test at all. The simple part of my story is this: I'm going to live and love longer because so many people who I’ll never meet selflessly gave their time and resources - to beat this disease.

Contribute to Breast Cancer Research

I will continue to support the annual Race to Beat Cancer 5K, and the ongoing fundraising efforts of  the wonderful volunteers and donors who support cancer research at the Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. I urge everyone to sign up for this year’s race.  There’s also the annual Drive Four the Cure Golf Classic at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, which is another opportunity to support the Washington Cancer Institute's cause. Together, we must continue to fight this disease so that we give friends, family, colleagues and many others the same opportunity! 


Have any questions?

We are here to help! If you have any questions about the Washington Cancer Institute or cancer treatments at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Call us at 202-877-3627.

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A Patient with a Purpose: Battle Colon Cancer

My Battle with Colon Cancer

Timing is everything. It’s a lesson Johnette and Jeffrey Powell learned the very hard way —and one they are anxious to pass on to others.

In 2010, the Powells packed up their lives and moved to Washington, D.C. It was a busy year and the-then 50-year-old Johnette was preoccupied with all the details of starting a new life in a new city. “I knew I needed to begin screening for colon cancer at 50—but in the transition from one place to the next, I delayed,” she explains. “It was a year later that I finally found a primary care doctor who sent me to Dr. Mitesh Patel at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for a colonoscopy. I was shocked to hear the results. More than one of the polyps he had removed was malignant. I had colon cancer.”

Surgery to resect a small section of her colon and remove nearby lymph nodes was quickly scheduled. “The cancer had spread beyond my colon,” Johnette explains. “So I spent the next six months receiving chemotherapy every other Friday.”
Today, nearly five years since her diagnosis, Johnette is a very proud and grateful colon cancer survivor. But she understands that any further delay in screening may have resulted in a far worse outcome—and with earlier screening, she may have been spared months of difficult treatment. Now the Powells are talking to everyone they know and telling them to “get checked,” says Jeffrey. It’s their battle cry and people are listening. “We both know all too well that screening saves lives,” he adds.

Screening for Prevention, Early Detection

In fact, screening colonoscopy can not only detect colon cancer early when it is more easily treated, it can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become malignant. Because risk increase with age, it’s recommended that men and women begin regular screening at age 50. However, for African-American men and women, the recommended age is 45. Some people may need to be screened earlier and more often because they have a higher risk for the disease.

You might be at an increased risk for colon cancer if you:
• Are African-American
• Smoke or use tobacco
• Are overweight or obese
• Are not physically active
• Drink alcohol in excess
• Eat a lot of red meat or processed meat
• Have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
• Have a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Reduce Your Colon Cancer Risks

In addition to regular screening, making some lifestyle changes can reduce risk of colon cancer—and other cancers as well.
• Maintain a healthy weight and waist size throughout life.
• Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
• Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
• Limit the amount of red meat and processed meat you eat, including pork.
• If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to one drink per day for women, two per day for men.
• Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.

While you’re learning to live a healthier life, take time to learn all you can about your family’s medical history. It wasn’t until after she was diagnosed that Johnette discovered her great aunt had had colon cancer. While a single relative may not be meaningful, it’s important to do your homework to determine your own level of risk for the disease. Then talk to your physician about what you’ve discovered and about when you should begin screening.

Learn more about Johnette's story below. 

Have any questions?

We are here to help! Contact us to find a gastroenterologist and to schedule your screening test today. Call us at 202-877-3627.

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Colon Cancer: A Preventable and Treatable Disease

Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and it’s also a cancer that’s highly preventable through screening.

If you are aged 50 or older, get screened for colon cancer. But for African-American men and women, the recommended age is 45. Why? Research proves that African Americans risk forming polyps (grape-like growths) sooner than other populations and this group is more likely to be diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other organs.

“Most screenings for colon cancer are normal, but in 20 percent of cases there may be polyps which are usually benign,” says Dr. Thomas Stahl, regional director for the MedStar Colorectal Surgery Program. “All polyps are sent to the lab for a biopsy (test) to determine if there are any cancerous cells.”

Colonoscopy- An Effective Screening Test

Colon cancer usually has no symptoms in its early stage and that’s why the screening is vital. The most effective screening tool is colonoscopy, but people avoid the test because of fear. The traditional bowel prep consists of drinking a four-liter bottle of solution and a liquid diet the day before the test. Adhering to the strict diet is critical to ensure the colon is entirely cleaned out.

“The prep has improved over the years,” says Dr. Mitesh Patel, a gastroenterologist with MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “You don’t have to drink as much liquid as before and we have incorporated Gatorade, which has electrolytes that help decrease nausea.”

Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a polyp - a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum – that doctors can remove during a colonoscopy procedure.

“When a polyp is removed from the body, it no longer has the opportunity to grow and potentially spread,” says Dr. Patel. “Once we discover a polyp, the patient is put on a surveillance program, depending on the number of polyps discovered during the colonoscopy and the size.”

Clinical guidelines say that if a patient has two or fewer polyps, they don’t need another screening for five years. If an individual has three or more polyps, they need to get screened every 3 years.

In addition to the age guidelines, African- Americans and people with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk, so talk to your primary care provider about getting screened early. Don’t put the test off another day, be proactive and get screened!

Have More Questions?

We are here to help! Contact us to find a gastroenterologist and to schedule your screening test today. Call us at 202-877-3627.

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Staying Centered Throughout Cancer Treatment

Yoga Instructor Uses Inner Strength to Aid in Recovery during Cancer Treatment

Calm and centered yoga instructor Youngsun Switzer takes pride in her pursuit of a healthy life. Forty minute walks, meditation,yoga practice and body cleansing liquids are her daily routine. In February 2015, Youngsun Switzer’s reality shifted when the Springfield, Va., woman—who never took an aspirin— was beginning a months-long fight against a rare form
of cancer.

“I literally went to sleep without a problem and woke with a lump the size of a golf ball on my shoulder,” Youngsun says. “At first I thought I injured myself, but when it didn’t go away, I went to see my doctor. He sent me for a CT and MRI, which indicated the lump was a sarcoma. It simply blew my mind.”

Sarcoma is a deadly form of cancer that, left untreated, can rapidly grow and spread. Highly specialized, intensive care is needed as part f the cancer treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome. Youngsun didn’t waste time dwelling on the negative. Instead, research took her to Robert Henshaw, MD, an internationally respected sarcoma expert close to home at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Internationally Recognized Expertise

Dr. Henshaw, an orthopaedic oncologist, leads the hospital’s team of specialists who have expertise treating musculoskeletal cancers, including rare sarcomas.

“These tumors arise in soft tissue, such as nerves, muscles and tendons,” Dr. Henshaw explains. “They are uncommon, less than 1 percent of all cancers, or about 12,000 people in the U.S. annually. Only 2,500 people a year have the specific type of tumor Youngsun had. Very few involve the shoulder. We see more than 750 patients with sarcomas every year, with more than 350 cases treated at Washington Cancer Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Our group is one of the largest practices of its kind in the country.”

Interdisciplinary Team Approach to Care

Youngsun’s sarcoma developed in her shoulder muscle and had spread to her collarbone. Recommendations for her cancer treatment were made by a team of medical oncologists, interventional radiologists, diagnostic imaging experts, pathologists and surgeons who regularly gather to discuss cases and develop treatment plans. “This strong interdisciplinary clinical approach toward cancer treatment gives patients a real advantage,” says Dr. Henshaw. “For Youngsun, we recommended chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor, which helps make the subsequent
surgery more successful. This is followed by radiation.”

In July, Dr. Henshaw removed the tumor and part of her collarbone using a sophisticated technique to re-route muscles and ensure she wouldn’t lose any range of motion.

“I admit it hasn’t been easy,” says Youngsun. “But I’ve had the strong support of my husband, Warren, my children and friends. I also tried very hard to continue my daily meditation and keep up my normal routine.”

“I was back to yoga within weeks,” a happy Youngsun says. “And in October, I took a break from radiation cancer treatment to attend my daughter’s dream wedding in Majorca, Spain. Two weeks later, my husband and I celebrated the completion of my therapy!” She and her husband are building a home in North Carolina, and she hopes to set up a yoga class specifically geared to cancer patients at a nearby hospital.

“I’m so grateful to Dr. Henshaw and the entire team,” she says. “I hope to inspire others to seek help when they think something may be wrong, and understand with the right treatment, they can have a happily ever after.”

Have Any Questions?

We're here to help! Contact us for more information about this and other cancer treatment. Call us at 202-877-3627.

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