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SF welcomes one-stop cancer care center

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SANTA FE — From the high-tech delivery of high-dose, targeted radiation to the more humanistic care designed to reduce patient stress, those associated with Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Care are touting what their newly combined resources can do for people.

The remodeled center at 490 A.W. Zia Road is the product of a partnership finalized this past December between the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and New Mexico Cancer Care Associates, which previously had been offering cancer treatment separately.

The result is a one-stop center serving people throughout northern New Mexico — Farmington is the only other location in the northern half of the state that offers cancer treatment, according to Dr. Donald Shina, director of radiation oncology services. Having the support of an organization as large as Christus means that Santa Fe will be able to maintain a cancer treatment program that keeps current with medical and technological advances, he said.

The remodel has involved putting two linear accelerators in place to deliver radiation therapy. “We’ve really doubled our facilities for radiation therapy,” Shina said, calling the equipment “state of the art,” able to deliver high doses to a tumor while minimizing the damage to adjacent tissue.

Having two machines has added flexibility to patient scheduling, he said. “It’s easier to accommodate patient preferences,” Shina said.

Within the next few months, he added, an upgrade to the machine is planned that will allow radiation treatment that can be delivered for situations such as limited lung cancers and cancer that has spread to small areas in the liver.

The facility also has the capability to offer high-dose bracheotherapy, sometimes used, for example, in certain esophogeal or gynecologic cancers, in which radioactive isotopes are delivered to limited areas, and then withdrawn, Shina said.

The remodel also expanded a chemotherapy suite on the second floor from 12 to 22 chairs, as well as two private rooms for the treatment, according to Dr. Scott Herbert, medical director of medical oncology and president of New Mexico Cancer Care Associates, which has offices in Raton, Las Vegas, Taos and Los Alamos.

The private rooms are used by patients who are more susceptible to infections, or who want a little more privacy, such as one patient who conducted a work-related Web conference while getting treatment, according to Herbert.

Office space also was expanded for what he calls the trend of the future: “I think you’re going to see a real expansion of integrative medicine services … Santa Fe is the perfect location for that.”

The center includes a doctor of Oriental medicine to deliver acupuncture and herbal remedies, as well as classes such as yoga and cooking, he said. A social worker also is on hand to offer support to families coping with the impacts of the illness, as well as a nutritionist to give guidance on healthful eating.

Palliative care also is incorporated into the center.

“Our goal was to be very patient-focused,” Herbert said.

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