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Big plans for cancer services at Peninsula Health with new Head of Oncology

Cancer patients on the Mornington Peninsula will soon have access to more clinical trials and potentially new treatments for cancer, as part of plans to expand the oncology service at Frankston Hospital, according to Dr Zee Wan Wong, Peninsula Health’s new Head of Oncology.

“There is a lot happening in the cancer space; novel therapies are being tested and approved all the time and we want to be able to offer our patients the latest approved treatment available, so they can have the best outcome and hopefully with fewer side effects,” explains Dr Wong, who started in the role in August this year.

“We currently run three oncology clinics a week at Frankston Hospital, but we hope to expand this to five next year with one clinic per day for each tumour stream.”

“So we’ll have dedicated clinics for patients with breast cancer, lung cancer, gastro-intestinal/bowel cancer, prostate/genitourinary cancer and melanoma with different specialists running each clinic.”

Dr Wong says there are many potential benefits to this approach.

“We will be able to develop the expertise to manage each tumour type and eventually have a better idea of the types of cancer population we see so as to integrate with our research and clinical trials within the Peninsula Health Oncology Unit.”

“Apart from letting the general practitioners in the South Eastern Primary Health Network (SEMPHN) know about our cancer services, we’ll also be working closely with other stakeholders  such as The Alfred and Monash Health, Monash University, and the Southern Melbourne Integrated Cancer Services (SMICS), all of whom are part of the Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC), to continue to improve cancer outcomes in our region.”

Dr Wong comes to role after working as the Clinical Director of the Oncology Unit at Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton and as the Clinical Director of West Hume Regional Integrated Cancer Services.

Prior to that she worked and studied overseas in Singapore, the UK and the United States before making the move to Australia to try something different.  

There are many reasons why she chose to specialise in oncology.

“There is a lot of collaboration between the scientists and the clinicians in oncology. For example, when you hear about a cancer gene discovery in the lab, you can expect to see treatment targeted at the gene being tested in clinical trials probably a lot quicker than other specialties, which is simply amazing,” explains Dr Wong.

“There is a general perception of oncology as a speciality that is rather depressing with a lot of bad news. Those of us who are in the field can attest that it is extremely gratifying.”

“While we do have patients who may have advanced disease, what’s important to realise is that there’s still a lot we can do. With increasingly more treatment options available, we can keep them in remission or relatively free from symptoms of their cancer  for a considerable period of time, and maintain a good quality of life.”

“It is also very important to realise that majority of our patients diagnosed with early stage cancer are cured and can lead a normal life after their cancer treatments”

Dr Wong says many oncologists like herself, develop a special bond with patients and their families.

“As oncologists, we feel very privileged to be involved in such a critical phase of the patient’s life.”

“We build a very close relationship with our patients and their families and it is very special to be able to make a difference, for our patients diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer.”

“Patients put so much of their trust in us and we want to be able to deliver the care that they deserve. I think that motivates us to keep up with the latest research and developments in cancer medicine and continue to strive to be able to offer the best available treatment for the patient sitting in front of us,” says Dr Wong.

Outside of work, Dr Wong is the mother of two teenagers who loves travelling and skiing with her family. She enjoys tennis – just don’t expect to see her playing at a competitive level any time soon.

“I love watching tennis, I’m not a very good player but my son plays and I love watching his matches as well.”