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New cancer center aims to make life easier for patients

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The lineup of new doctors, scary-sounding medical terms and seemingly unending appointments at offices miles apart can make a cancer diagnosis seem impossible to navigate.

With the opening of a new cancer center, Community Hospital South officials hope to eliminate much of the confusion so patients can focus on getting well.

The hospital debuted its $20 million cancer center on its southside campus. The new facility will move nearly all of the hospital’s cancer care providers into one building, meaning patients won’t have to make multiple trips to see their oncologist, receive radiation treatment and find wigs and mastectomy prostheses.

With the new cancer center, the hospital will be better equipped to treat more types of cancers in the most effective way, said Regina Ward, executive director of oncology services at Community Cancer Center South.

“Previously, patients and families had to travel from one location to another to see all of their different providers. It was very fragmented,” she said. “This way, a treatment plan can be chosen all in the same day by having everyone in the room at the same time.”

Plans for the new center have been developing for more than three years, as hospital officials identified the need for oncology services on the southside, said Myra Fouts, vice president of oncology services for Community Health Network. Construction started in late 2012. The first patients arrived Tuesday.

The center is opening in stages, with the examination areas, chemotherapy and other infusion services starting first. Radiation treatments will start May 5. A breast health facility, including surgeons, will open in late summer.

With the opening of the center, 27 new jobs were created, and current workers around the southside were transferred to the new location, Ward said.

The setup allows patients to see their radiation oncologist, surgeon and medical oncologist in a central location, Fouts said.

Colorectal, prostate, lung and gynecological cancer surgery will be available at the center as well. An in-house plastic surgery unit will help patients needing reconstruction services.

Because all of the care providers, as well as laboratories and a pharmacy, are in the same building, information is available to care providers almost immediately.

A patient tracking system will help keep waiting time at a minimum for the different doctors they need to see, Ward said.

“We’re hoping for no wait time at all. By the time the patient makes it to treatment, their lab results are already in the computer so decisions can be made about their care,” she said.

The new center also features more than $6 million in new imaging technology, including a positron emission tomography-computed tomography to gain a complete look at metabolic and biochemical activity in the body. A linear accelerator will be able to deliver radiation to precise areas in the body, reducing the damage done to healthy tissue.

“They don’t need to go outside the facility for diagnostic services. Everything from diagnostics to radiation and medical oncology treatment can all be done at one time,” Fouts said.

A large focus was on creating a healing environment for people, Fouts said. The center will have social workers and financial counseling for patients and families to help navigate the overwhelming costs of cancer treatment.

Dietitians will make sure patients are eating correctly. Programs such as acupuncture, massage, and art and music therapy can help relieve some of the stress experienced during treatment. The FigLeaf Boutique will provide wigs, fittings and prostheses.

“You’re being told you have cancer, you’re going to have surgery, you’re going to have chemotherapy, radiation,” Ward said.

“At the same time, if you have these services here, it can counter some of what you’re going to experience.”

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