Families living in Central Alberta will have better access to cancer care closer to home with the opening of the new Central Alberta Cancer Centre.
The new facility, which was officially opened last week, ensures fewer people will need to travel to Edmonton or Calgary to access cancer services and treatment. It will also help ease pressure on cancer facilities in Edmonton and Calgary, allowing more patients to get the care they need more quickly.
The centre is expected to see more than 15,000 patient visits in its first year and the new radiation therapy facilities will treat more than 600 cases annually. The Central Alberta Cancer Centre is part of Alberta’s north south ‘radiation corridor’. Once completed, the corridor will mean 92% of patients will be able to access radiation treatment within 100 kms of their homes.
The facility replaces the existing centre in Red Deer and is adjoined to the Red Deer Hospital. The centre will offer four times the clinical space and will include all cancer services moved from the existing facility, two linear accelerators that will provide external-beam radiation to about 600 patients a year. This therapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
In addition, a third radiation vault has been built to allow for future expansion of services, and there will also be additional treatment and examination rooms, outpatient clinics, a medical day unit with treatment areas (beds and chairs) for chemotherapy or other treatments and procedures and in-house pharmacy services, including a satellite pharmacy for the storage, preparation and dispensing of cancer medication, as well as education, counseling and other social support services for cancer patients and families.
Kim Rideout, a cancer survivor from the City, said having a facility such as this one close to home will help take the stress off families.
“I had to travel from my home in Red Deer to Calgary to receive radiation treatments. I wasn’t used to the traffic of the big city, and had to drive on snowy highways. The commute placed additional stress on an already stressful situation for both me and my family,” said Rideout, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. “I made a total of 18 trips to Calgary during my radiation treatments. We traveled more than 5,500 kilometres in 18 days. I had just finished chemotherapy and I was sicker than I ever had been in my life. But I didn’t have an option of going because my life depended on it.
“This new centre in Red Deer will mean more people can be treated closer to home rather than having to travel long distances when they’re feeling unwell from treatments. I’m thrilled this centre is completed and I know firsthand that everyone who has the unfortunate need in the future will benefit more than anyone outside the cancer community can ever understand.”
Premier Alison Redford was also on hand during the grand opening event in Red Deer. “We want to make sure that anyone who is diagnosed with cancer gets the supports and treatment they need to heal. This centre will house cutting-edge technology and give patients earlier diagnosis and treatment closer to home. We’re going to keep fighting cancer, together,” she said. “The statistics are hard to talk about but over half the people in Alberta at some point in their life will be diagnosed with some form of cancer and it is one of the fastest growing health issues we need to deal with and have had to deal with in this province.
“This facility supports families and people across Central Alberta.”
Fred Horne, minister of health, added the new facility is more than just a building. “Every day, 42 Albertans learn they have cancer. By 2030, we expect that to grow to 73 new cancer cases a day. This new centre is about more than bricks and mortar, it’s about ensuring these people, and their families, who are going through what might be the most stressful time of their lives are supported.”
Meanwhile, Rideout added she is grateful the facility is open. “For someone who has been there, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who had anything to do with this building being built. It’s 10 times bigger than anyone can ever imagine.”