Centre expands options for cancer patients

A $60-million expansion to the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer will allow most people needing radiation to receive it locally once the new facilities open in 2012.

Artist's rendering shows in yellow where proposed new cancer centre will fit on the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre site.

A $60-million expansion to the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer will allow most people needing radiation to receive it locally once the new facilities open in 2012.

Concept plans are expected to be complete by the end of the year with construction starting in 2010.

The Central Alberta Cancer Centre, located on the west side of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, will be more than three times its current size once the work is complete — moving from 1,025 square metres to 3,810 square metres.

Research shows that around half of people diagnosed with cancer can benefit from radiation therapy, said Kerry Toll, director of the radiation therapy corridor project team under Alberta Health Services — Cancer Care. Currently, Central Albertans needing radiation therapy have to go to either the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary or the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton.

Once the expansion is complete, between 75 to 80 per cent of people will be able to get the radiation therapy they need in Red Deer for common forms of cancer, including breast, prostate, gastrointestinal, urinary system cancers and palliative treatments to manage pain. Other rarer forms of cancer will still be treated in Edmonton or Calgary, including pediatric and cancers in the head or neck.

Toll said the purpose of the project is to improve access for patients.

“It is a huge improvement because many of the patients have to attend 10 to 20 sessions (of radiation therapy),” Toll said.

“That means that if they’re staying over, some are away from home for a long time or there is a lot of travel back and forth and patients are often unwell and fragile. So it is a huge benefit for Central Alberta.”

The new facilities will also mean the centre will be able to treat more people. In 2007-2008, there were 540 new patients accepted by the centre. That capacity will move to 900 new patients by 2012 when the new areas open.

The radiation therapy corridor project started in 2007 as a joint project between the federal and provincial governments to shorten wait times for radiation therapy and includes projects in Red Deer, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie. The provincial government has put $49 million towards facility development and construction of the Red Deer project with the federal government putting a little over $11 million for equipment and furnishings for the Central Alberta Cancer Centre. The Central Alberta Cancer Centre first opened in November 1982, moving to its present location in 2005.

Alberta Health Services recently chose Stuart Olson Constructors as the construction manager, working in partnership with HFKS Architects Inc. to expand the Central Alberta Cancer Centre. The plan is to build the structure to a LEED silver rating, with developers looking at possibly having a green roof, rain water collection, high-efficiency mechanical heating and cooling systems and extra insulation.

The project will include three radiation vaults — with walls 1.5 to 1.8 metres thick — to treat patients. Two of the vaults will be fully equipped from the start and the third will be for expansion. As well, the facility will have outpatient clinics, a medical day unit with beds and chairs for chemotherapy or other treatments, pharmacy services for preparation and dispensing of cancer medication and areas for other support services.

Toll said the facility is designed to accommodate the needs of Central Albertans to at least 2020 or possibly even to 2025.


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