New facility frees cancer patients from hours of travel

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nothing's as sobering as hearing that you have cancer, but it's not the death sentence it was in years past.

American Cancer Society statistics show the death rate from cancer in the United States has declined steadily over the past 20 years.

The cancer death rate for men and women, which peaked in 1991, had dropped 20 percent by 2010, the most recent year for which data is available.

A total of 1.66 million new cancer cases and 585,720 deaths are projected to occur in the U.S. this year, but that rate has declined from a peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 171.8 in 2010. That translates to approximately 1.34 million cancer deaths avoided during that period.

There's more good news for residents of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas -- the opening of the Anderson Center for Radiation Oncology, which received a certificate of occupancy on April 14.

Anyone who has had a family member with cancer -- and that includes most of us -- knows cancer treatment usually involved a lot of travel, especially those of who live in rural areas. It wasn't uncommon in years past to encounter travelers who were riding the bus or driving to Omaha for a series of chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

Many of those travelers can spend more time with their families and less time on the road.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, cooperation of healthcare providers and forward-thinking leadership, treatment is now being provided right here in McCook, at the Anderson Center for Radiation Oncology at Community Hospital.

An grand opening is planned Friday from 2 to 4 p.m., and the public is encouraged to join in the celebration and learn more about cancer services.

The $6 million project was made possible through the efforts of the Community Hospital Health Foundation, which has contributed nearly $1 million toward the project. Another, $500,000 lead gift came from long-time McCook businessman Lemoine "Andy" Anderson, in memory of his wife, Geri, who died of cancer in January 2013, and son Michael, who had cancer and died in 1996 at age 45.

It was not the first time the Anderson family had helped keep their community healthy. They helped start the hospice endowment fund in memory of Michael, and gave a major gift toward the hospital's Rehabilitation Center as well as numerous other projects.

Another $3 million came from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley charitable Trust to purchase the linear accelerator, and the Health Foundation also provided nearly $20,000 toward the oncology center as a result of ticket sales for the Lorri Morgan concert, which was underwritten by sponsors so all of the ticket sales could go toward the project.

Some of the first patients served at the new oncology center came here while the North Platte Callahan Cancer center was closed to replace its linear accelerator. McCook's oncology center was established through cooperation of the Great Plains Regional Hospital and medical staff.

Construction of the 4,200-square-foot addition on the northeast corner of the Community Hospital campus, just east of the Medical Specialists Center, began last summer and was completed last month.

It includes reserved parking, a private entrance, reception and waiting room, two large exam rooms, staff offices, a control room and a large vault to contain the linear accelerator uses in the treatments. There is room for family members to accompany their loved ones during treatment, and for future growth of services.

Let's take time Friday to tour the new Anderson Center for Radiation Oncology. We all owe a debt of gratitude to all those involved in bringing this important facility to our community.

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