Improvements to Guam cancer care coming - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Improvements to Guam cancer care coming

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - For years, cancer patients on island have had no choice but to go off-island for radiation treatment, one of the most effective ways to fight cancer. But there's good news on the horizon as a new treatment center prepares to open its doors.

With cancer claiming the second leading cause of death on Guam, our island's limited treatment options are a sad reality for patients struggling with the disease.  But all that will change come next year, when the Island Cancer Center opens its doors, offering state-of-the-art radiation treatment.  

Dave Rittenour is the Field Service Engineer charged with putting the radiation machine together.  He says, "Everyday they shoot at a different spot. Good cells will come back. The point that we're shooting on the radiation shrinks and pretty soon it just pretty much becomes nothing and that's how we treat radiation."

The last time that kind of technology was available here was in 2002, before flooding caused by Supertyphoon Pongsona destroyed the island's sole radiation machine.  

At the helm of the project is the Guam Surgicenter - administrator Chuck Tanner says that before even starting construction on the Island Cancer Center, every precaution was taken to ensure history doesn't repeat itself.  "Underneath that brand new parking lot is a bunch of percolation chambers and so when it rains pretty good like it does on Guam all the drainage goes over there and if that gets overwhelmed and the water starts rising we also have four gigantic hydraulic pumps that will pump this water away from my building," he said.

A radiation oncologist has already signed on and adjacent to the Island Cancer Center will be a new specialty clinic that Tanner says will include physicians to complement the Cancer Center including a urologist and pain management specialist.  Most importantly, the new center will allow patients to stay home to have the support of friends and family in their fight with cancer.

"That's at least two weeks off-island if not more so being able to be treated here in a quality manner and having confidence in your treatment that you're getting state-of-the-art care is very important. I think it's going to reduce a lot of stress for our friends and family on-island," he said.

The Island Cancer Center is scheduled to open its doors in April of next year.

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