Connecting the Community with Cancer Care

Nikki Dickson stands in front of group as she presents information about cancer care.

Cancer isn’t a subject most people enjoy talking about, but Nikki Dickson loves talking about it in terms of hope and help. Dickson is an oncology services outreach representative at Thompson Cancer Survival Center who regularly makes presentations to local groups about treatment options and where they can be found.

Her presentations are often met with surprise.

“No one thinks of East Tennessee as being a hub for technological or medical advancement,” Dickson says. “With all of our comprehensive cancer care centers throughout East Tennessee, most people don’t have to go somewhere else for treatment.”

On this particular day, Dickson has just finished a presentation to the Roane County Provider’s Network, a group of professionals with healthcare and community resource-related careers meeting monthly at Covenant Health Roane Medical Center. Thompson’s cancer care is present in every East Tennessee county Covenant Health serves.

That includes Roane, Loudon and Cumberland, the counties where the meeting attendees live, work and care for others on a daily basis.

“I have at least five elderly people contact me a day with different needs,” says Cherry Brown, a home health care professional who is co-chair of the Roane County Provider’s Network. “It could be food pantry needs, it could be they have cancer, it could be a wide range of things, so it’s good to just get together and share our knowledge.”

Co-chair Jessica Kalin adds, “Every month we share education and resources with a group of people who care about the well-being of those in and around our community and making things happen. We learn as a group what else exists.”

With MRI breast scanning* now available at Covenant Health Roane Medical Center, and with October designated nationally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dickson’s topic was timed just right.

While covering information about Thompson’s cancer services, she also offered education on different types of radiation treatment, including proton therapy which Dickson emphasizes is not new or experimental, but a well-established treatment option for certain cancer cases.

“We want to get out and let the community and the providers know about the world-class care that is available in their backyard and explain how it works and what the options are so when a crisis hits, they’ve already got information they need,” Dickson says. Brown is one of the hearers who is appreciative.

“I don’t know a family that’s not touched by cancer,” Brown says. “So, when we have patients going through that or family members going through that we can maybe help answer a few questions for them and put them at ease.”

Thompson Cancer Survival Center is celebrated as a premier cancer treatment network, having pioneered treatments and several times been the first to introduce new methods and equipment to the East Tennessee region. Among them:

Photodynamic therapy for the treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus with high-grade dysplasia in 1990
Becoming the first facility in the nation to offer TomoTherapy radiation treatment
Oncology pharmacies with two oncology pharmacists on-site at every location that offers chemotherapy
The first to bring cancer clinical trials to the region more than 25 years ago
The most active clinical trials program in the region today
Weekly multi-disciplinary clinics in breast and chest cancers at the Thompson Cancer Survival Center downtown Knoxville location, bringing a team of specialists to the patient in a single office visit.

“Our mission is to bring the best in cancer care to East Tennessee and treat all the patients like they were our family,” Dickson says.

Thompson Cancer Survival Center is a member of Covenant Health, the region’s largest healthcare delivery enterprise.

*Breast MRI is covered by Medicare and most insurance

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