JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN
Dr. Sri Navaratnam, right, gets a tour of the Western Manitoba Cancer Centre by Scott Kirk, left, regional manager for cancer services for Prairie Mountain Health, along with other members of the oncology program, for the first time since being named president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba.
Since the Western Manitoba Cancer Centre opened its doors in the summer of 2011, some 14,000 radiation therapy treatments have been administered.
Western Manitoba Cancer Centre (JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN)
That means roughly 1,000 cancer patients from southwestern Manitoba were able to be treated in Brandon rather than travel to Winnipeg.
"It provides care closer to home," said Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson. "When you think about the kilometres up and down the highway for radiation therapy in particular, that people in this area of the province were dealing with prior to 2011, this is significant."
Depending on their diagnosis, patients could receive anywhere from one to 39 radiation treatments. Gilson said having the option for patients to receive the treatment in Brandon has made a "phenomenal difference" in people’s lives.
"Sometimes radiation therapy can be five times per week for up to six weeks, which was a significant disruption to people in their lives, having to travel to Winnipeg for that service," she said.
In the Prairie Mountain Health region, which includes the former Brandon, Assiniboine and Parkland regional health authorities, the age-adjusted cancer incidence rates are 476.5 per 100,000 population. For all of Manitoba, that number is 471.5 per 100,000.
According to CancerCare Manitoba, 6,300 Manitobans receive a cancer diagnosis every year. Annually, 2,750 Manitobans die from cancer.
The number of cancer patients at the Western Manitoba Cancer Centre has increased significantly beyond the original projections.
"When this building was first developed, we had a certain set number we thought we would see and we were probably about 40 per cent higher than all of our projections," said Scott Kirk, regional manager for cancer services with Prairie Mountain Health.
Kirk said chemotherapy treatments are upwards of 4,000 treatments since the centre opened. In Manitoba, nearly 50 per cent of the chemotherapy that is done outside of Winnipeg is done in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
"One of the biggest benefits we have out here in this region is … a comprehensive cancer centre, and it’s the only one outside of Winnipeg that offers the full spectrum of services," Kirk said. "Everything from your radiation therapy to your chemotherapy and your support services."
The new president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba, Dr. Sri Navaratnam, toured the Brandon centre on Wednesday, along with other members of the radiation oncology program.
Currently there is only one full-time radiation oncologist, Dr. Bashir, at the centre.
"If you think about it, one thousand patients have been seen here … which is not sustainable by one radiation oncologist," Navaratnam said. "We really need another."
So beginning in June, a part-time radiation oncologist will be added to the Western Manitoba Cancer Centre.
"He will work at least two full-day clinics here and then the other day he will use it for treatment planning," she said. "So that will take some workload away from Dr. Bashir."
Navaratnam said they hope to have the second radiation oncologist position added as a permanent position by next year.
"We strongly believe that one cannot do it all," she said. "Bringing an additional radiation oncologist will help the workload, improve our care ... and improve state-of-the-art treatment."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 27, 2014