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Local treatment a reality for cancer patients

by Michele Catahay

Guam - Cancer patients on Guam won't have to go off-island any longer.  In an effort to provide such services to the public, the Island Cancer Center opened its doors today.  They say cancer touches the lives of everyone on island one way or another. 

For the past several years, it's been difficult for patients battling cancer simply because Guam didn't have the means to provide such services. With the grand opening of the new Island Cancer Center, Lieutenant Governor Mike Cruz says today is a good day for Guam.

"This is now going to bring all this home so that patients can stay here and do it. The theme of the cancer center is ‘Our Family Treating Your Family'.  Patients are going to be able to be treated with their own family and the support staff. So this is a good day for Guam and for cancer patients. Congratulations to the Island Cancer Center."

The last cancer facility located in this same location at the Guam Medical Plaza suffered damages from 2002's Supertyphoon Pongsona. Since then, the island lacked radiation therapy equipment, forcing patients to go off-island. Island Cancer Center Practice Manager Dr. Colin O'Connell says they provide radiation therapy and other necessary treatment for cancer.  "I've work in cancer care for close to ten years. I've worked in territories much like Guam, the United States Virgin Islands with their startup. My expertise is primarily administrative management."

Radiation oncologist Dr. Theresa Pagliuca said the Center is able to provide comprehensive care so patients feel more comfortable here at home, saying, "Having serious illness like cancer is disruptive enough. It's even worse when you have to pick up and leave your home, your family, your routine and anything that is familiar and stay in some strange city for pretty serious treatment. It'll be so much easier and so much more therapeutic for the patient if they can stay in their own home with their family and friends, with their usual routine."

The Island Cancer Center provides a full spectrum of cancer care, more than just chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  Dr. Pagliuca said, "We provide management, we provide services for the supportive care for the side effects of treatments. What we're not able to do in-house, there are people we can refer patients to ensure they get appropriate care that they need. We provide follow-up care for patients. We can advise on survivorship issues. Because cancer is a chronic illness or something that you're treated for and goes away."

Dr. O'Connell says they stand ready to open the doors to help patients and families. "Though we never ever want people to come to us, the best way is that you be referred by your family physician," he said.

For more information, you can call the Island Cancer Center at 646-3363.

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