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UCSF Thyroid Doctor

forme's picture
forme
Posts: 1158
Joined: Aug 2010

Hi All,
I was wondering if anyone out there has heard of or worked with a Dr Kenneth Woeber at UCSF. I believe he is a dept head for thyroid cancer. I have heard good/positive and bad/negative things about him. Any insight would be most helpful. Thanks so much..

IndianaFarmBoy
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2010

I have been under the care of UCSF doctors since 1993, after my first of eleven surgeries. I have not worked with a Dr. Woeber. Unfortunately the best thyroid cancer specialist at UCSF just retired this summer. His name was Dr. Orlo Clark and was world renowned. Dr. Clark was part of a oncology practice in the Mt. Zion (one of UCSF's hospitals) based Cancer Center. The good news is that he is transitioning his practice to his protege, Dr. Jessica Gosnel. She knows her stuff. As a result she is backlogged. But if you can get a referral it would be worth it. There are other thyroid cancer specialists in the Mt. Zion cancer center with whom I also meet and get recommendations on treatment. Do not rely on one doctor but use the entire team that UCSF has assembled. For example when the liver tumors grew to > 2cm I was ushered over to a Dr. Siperstein as he was testing a new liver ablation technique. So I was the 36th person in the world to have liver ablation surgery. Unfortunately Dr. Siperstein moved to the Cleveland Clinic but he was replaced by his protege, Dr. Stanley Rogers. Another example is that Dr. Gosnell sponsored a clinical trial on a new drug for medullary thyroid cancer called Zactima. The trial went so well that they stopped the study and went straight to the FDA (now I have to wait for our mighty government bureaucrats to move). I have found the Mt. Zion Cancer Center doctors to be humble and work well as a team. If you are nice to them they will be nice to you. A very simple formula.

My disease is metastatic and is medullary, not papillary, so it is more complex. My current diagnosis is not very positive as my lymph system, liver, lungs and bones are involved. My blood SO2 levels are down to 94% as my lungs are full of tumors and I was put on a chemo drug that is not a cure but has shown promise. Early this year I spend 11 days in ICU because I caught pneumonia and couldn't get oxygen to my lungs. However Dr. Clark and the current UCSF Cancer Center team has kept me alive 17+ years and that is definitely an extreme on the Medullary survival bell curve. I owe it to being aggressive with treatment and the UCSF team.

While this doesn't comment on Dr Woeber it does provide commentary on UCSF. Also you should double check on the "head of thyroid cancer" department. Technically I don't think there is such a thing at UCSF. If there is I have spent 17 years there and never knew it.

forme's picture
forme
Posts: 1158
Joined: Aug 2010

Hi,
Thanks for your reply. I have now been to Mt. Zion and met with this Dr Woeber. This was a second opinion for me. Had more labs done and a long visit. I felt that Mt Zion UCSF was a really great place for care, but won't work for me. I live next to Stanford, but was referred to UCSF. If I lived in the city or near to the city, I might continue care with them, but not with Dr Woeber. I still wonder what others have to say about this Dr.
I am now being followed by the onc dept at Stanford. Thanks again for your information.
All the best to you..

IndianaFarmBoy
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2010

Hi,

There is something to be said if you are referred to a hospital. The beauty of UCSF is that they have multiple doctors. If you don't like the Dr. Woeber then choose someone else. While Stanford has a good reputation as a hospital they aren't in the same league when it comes to thyroids and especially thyroid cancers. UCSF has experience with all 3 major types of TC, Stanford doesn't have that same experience. UCSF leads or participates in most of the major thyroid clinical trials, Stanford doesn't compare. UCSF is a Top 10 ranked hospital in the U.S. Stanford isn't. I lived in Walnut Creek for 17 years and didn't think the drive to UCSF was big deal when it means your life. You are even closer if you take the back way into SF and drive up Geary to Mt. Zion. I haven't lived in SF for the past 7 years (Portland, OR and Chicago, IL) and I still use UCSF for my thyroid. I have lost family members to cancer because the great doctor wasn't next door. I don't know you but please reconsider. OK, I will now get off my podium and I will pray that your TC situation is solved no matter what doctor you go to. All the best to you also.

cpc
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2010

I am from Alaska.
I have the dubious distinction of have had the priviilege of picking and ultimately going to cancer docs from thousands of miles away. Altho it is a pain in the ass, it could not be any more the right decision.
I have had two serious and unrealated malignancies in the last 15 years. In both cases, the diseases were missed by local Alaska docs /pathologists, tho they were well-trained. In both cases, going to the absolute BEST doc in the biz for the particular disase was absolutely the right decision, despite cost, time, effort---which has been great. In both cases I have uncommon or rare diseases and the knowledge and dedication of specialists has proved unbeatable in the treatment I have received. (I am alive, for one).

I was lucky enough to go to Dr Clark in the 1990's for hurthle cell carcinoma (an uncommon thyroid cancer, not treatable generally with 1-131 so no "magic bullet"---about 400 reported cases in literature). He was amazingly brilliant, humble, funny, great hands (you should see the lack of scarring despite multiple surgeries). He was the only surgeon to also be head of Thyroid Society. (Usually the endocrinologists think the surgeons know nothing about the disease---but not so with Dr. Clark). My tumor was very odd, so he ended up sending it to Italy and he and some Italian docs wrote a long paper about it---lead story in Thyroid Magazine (not that that is what I hope for (couldn't it be Glamour??) , but it showed such intellectual curiousity and dedication ). He would always open my appt with cheery "Now Mrs C, what do you have for us today?" because I would bring a notebook of new articles and questions which he was always happy to answer and interested in. (Compared to other med institutions where they get upset if you do that). I was also followed annually by Dr Francis Greenspan an endo at UCSF since the surgeries. He too has just retired, and I am bummed. Last year I was diagnosed with a sarcoma which my local doc had missed for 10 years. I immediately called Dr Clark for a recommendation even tho I had not talked to him for over 10 years. He returned my call immediately---"Hi, what's up?" He asked after my kids, what I was doing, remembered my hobbies, and he was in a cab on his way to the airport to go to Australia.
If he has passed the mantle on to someone, go to them. Dr. Clark walks on water as far as I am concerned.

Unfortunately, I have also been a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering since Sept 2009----unfortunately cuz it is not fun to have another malignancy--this time a sarcoma (unrelated to the thryoid cancer). MSK specializes in them so that is why I went there---also the right decision for that disease. I'm glad I made that decision too, tho no one will match Dr Clark.

You want to be somewhere where they know your disease. End of story.

cpc
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2010

I am from Alaska.
I have the dubious distinction of have had the priviilege of picking and ultimately going to cancer docs from thousands of miles away. Altho it is a pain in the ass, it could not be any more the right decision.
I have had two serious and unrealated malignancies in the last 15 years. In both cases, the diseases were missed by local Alaska docs /pathologists, tho they were well-trained. In both cases, going to the absolute BEST doc in the biz for the particular disase was absolutely the right decision, despite cost, time, effort---which has been great. In both cases I have uncommon or rare diseases and the knowledge and dedication of specialists has proved unbeatable in the treatment I have received. (I am alive, for one).

I was lucky enough to go to Dr Clark in the 1990's for hurthle cell carcinoma (an uncommon thyroid cancer, not treatable generally with 1-131 so no "magic bullet"---about 400 reported cases in literature). He was amazingly brilliant, humble, funny, great hands (you should see the lack of scarring despite multiple surgeries). He was the only surgeon to also be head of Thyroid Society. (Usually the endocrinologists think the surgeons know nothing about the disease---but not so with Dr. Clark). My tumor was very odd, so he ended up sending it to Italy and he and some Italian docs wrote a long paper about it---lead story in Thyroid Magazine (not that that is what I hope for (couldn't it be Glamour??) , but it showed such intellectual curiousity and dedication ). He would always open my appt with cheery "Now Mrs C, what do you have for us today?" because I would bring a notebook of new articles and questions which he was always happy to answer and interested in. (Compared to other med institutions where they get upset if you do that). I was also followed annually by Dr Francis Greenspan an endo at UCSF since the surgeries. He too has just retired, and I am bummed. Last year I was diagnosed with a sarcoma which my local doc had missed for 10 years. I immediately called Dr Clark for a recommendation even tho I had not talked to him for over 10 years. He returned my call immediately---"Hi, what's up?" He asked after my kids, what I was doing, remembered my hobbies, and he was in a cab on his way to the airport to go to Australia.
If he has passed the mantle on to someone, go to them. Dr. Clark walks on water as far as I am concerned.

Unfortunately, I have also been a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering since Sept 2009----unfortunately cuz it is not fun to have another malignancy--this time a sarcoma (unrelated to the thryoid cancer). MSK specializes in them so that is why I went there---also the right decision for that disease. I'm glad I made that decision too, tho no one will match Dr Clark.

You want to be somewhere where they know your disease. End of story.

MaddyKSF
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2013

I'm a current patient of Dr. Woeber's and have been under his care for thyroid cancer. He is the absolute best! And I actually credit him with saving my life. If it weren't for him my cancer never would have been discovered (it was missed by my other endocrinologist) and he was so kind and compassionate throughout the entire process of diagnosis, surgery, and continuing care. If you can get in to see him you are very lucky.

To clarify some of the misinformation in the other posts Dr. Woeber is an endocrinologist and Dr. Gosnell is a surgeon. Dr. Woeber refers his thyroid patients to the UCSF endocrine surgery team to those that need it, but he is the one handling the patient's actual care, check-ups, follow-up treatments, medication, etc. I actually had my surgery done by Dr. Shen who is also an excellent surgeon.

CalPolyMom
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2013

So, would you say that either one of the three Endocrine surgeons would be a good choice for a total thyroidectomy for someone with papillary cancer? Dr. Quan-Yang Duh, Dr. Jessica Gosnell and Dr. Wen Shen. Are they all equally fine surgeons?

I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer in late February. My endocrinologist in my PAMF network in Santa Cruz referred me to a general surgeon in our group. We have an HMO through Blue Shield. I met with this surgeon, and unfortunately, he simply doesn't have the expertise in thyroidectomies. He only does maybe one a month. And, since I had a laryngectomy to excise vocal cord polyps in 1986, he told me he feels nervous about my vocal cords and wants me to see an ENT for evaluation. He also told me he doesn't use a laryngeal nerve monitor because it's noisy and gets in his way. I just feel that someone who doesn't do a lot of this surgery might benefit from this device.

I'm more concerned and stressed out about the possible side effects (damaged vocal cords and parathyroid) than I am about the actual cancer at this point. I just don't want someone poking around inside my neck without tons of experience.

So, when I consult with my Primary Care Provider on Thursday asking him for a referral to UCSF, I just pray that he'll see it my way and understand my need to feel 100% comfortable with my surgeon. I know physicians like to keep it in the network, but at the same time, I would hope they will take into consideration that we simply don't have a specialized surgeon for thyroids. Wish me luck!

Baldy's picture
Baldy
Posts: 225
Joined: Mar 2011

I'm on the wrong coast to know about the doctors you mention, but I think you should find a head and neck surgeon who has done a large number of thyroidectomies.

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