AAMC Brings New A Era of Cancer Care to the Region
Cancer. It’s still a word we all fear. People we know and love suffer from it and we haven’t cured it. So it’s comforting to know that medical experts, cutting edge technology and a healing environment are so close at hand.
Maryland has the fourth highest cancer mortality rate in the United States. And Anne Arundel County has the second highest death rate for breast and ovarian cancers and the fourth highest death rate for prostate cancer in the state.
Why such a high cancer rate right in our backyard?
Stanley P. Watkins, M.D., Medical Director for Oncology, said, “We don’t know why. A few years ago, a Maryland task force spent months researching our area, looking at environmental, geographic and demographic issues, but came to no conclusion why Marylanders have such a high rate of cancer above and beyond their smoking habits. From a medical standpoint, however, we are now able to cure some cancers considered incurable 10 years ago and are making considerable strides with others. We’re learning new ways to prevent it, find it early and treat it.”
This year, Anne Arundel Medical Center takes a giant step forward with a $13 million renovation and expansion of its Cancer Center that has been open since 1989. The expansion will continue to deliver fully integrated state-of-the-art oncology services to the region and compassionate, hands-on healing to those in need of cancer care.
Dr. Watkins said of the new Cancer Center, “The startling impact of the statistics about cancer in our region is compounded by what research tells us lies ahead: the mass aging of the populations will produce an unprecedented need for oncology services. We’re making a commitment to the region by building a comprehensive program that will provide advanced cancer care with cutting edge technology and highly specialized equipment.”
“Our new cancer fighting technology is truly new age,” said Carolyn Core, Vice-President Corporate Services and Acting Executive Director of the Cancer Center. “Our Novalis shaped beam radiosurgery treats tumors with incredible precision through the use of multiple, highly complex shaped beams of radiation to isolate the tumor and avoid exposing healthy tissue. And the PET/CT scanner, which we will introduce in early 2003, fuses images to provide a much more accurate and detailed picture of tumors.”
One of few centers in Mid-Atlantic
Ms. Core said, “Novalis is so state-of-the-art that only a few centers in the United States offer it, and only AAMC offers this advanced technology in the entire Mid-Atlantic area. It is similar to the GammaKnife, but has greatly expanded applications, and in addition to brain tumors, it can treat the head and neck, as well as the breast, spine and prostate. The beauty of the PET/CT scanner is that it can locate smaller tumors, reduce the diagnosis time by more than half, and most important, research indicates the management of patient treatments can be more customized. In other words, it’s a better tool for diagnosing cancers,” she said.
In addition to Novalis and the PET/CT Scanner, the hospital is acquiring two new Varian linear accelerators equipped with multi-leaf collimation, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and digital port imaging, a CT simulator, a 3-D treatment planning system and a record and verify system. All the systems are computerized and will be networked to facilitate the transfer of patient information between diagnosis, simulation, planning and treatment.
The new linear accelerators will allow AAMC to treat patients using IMRT. IMRT is used to treat cancers of the prostate, breast, head, neck, central nervous system, lung and liver. Eligible patients develop fewer medical complications through improved treatment precision.
Dr. Watkins said, “IMRT is similar to radiosurgery, in that it allows us to pinpoint radiation therapy so we can add more radiation to the cancer and less to the normal tissue.”
Technology enhances services for patients
Along with the renovation and expansion of the Cancer Center, the hospital is enhancing its information network to provide the region with information sharing, electronic links and program protocols. Patients will have access to this network to research breakthroughs in cancer care and become more informed in the latest in cancer treatments.
Dr. Watkins said, “Although still a formidable foe, cancer is now a known enemy. Physicians are fighting it more effectively. With our new state-of-the-art equipment and a commitment to keeping the people in our region healthy and well, Anne Arundel Medical Center can help win the war against cancer. With early detection and proper treatment patients are living longer, healthier lives and in many cases, overcoming the disease altogether.”
Anne Arundel County Relay for Life Co-chair Joseph Collins presents a rocking chair to AAMC’s Cancer Center’s Infusion Therapy Room. Relay for Life, a national volunteer organization, raises millions of dollars each year for cancer research and programs.
Collins, who became a Relay for Life volunteer after his wife Nancy died of cancer in 2000, helps organize the annual relay in Anne Arundel County. The rocking chair is signed by cancer survivors who attended the reception. “When my wife was being treated, we would sit for hours in different offices. I thought donating more comfortable chairs to area hospitals would help make all the waiting a little more pleasant,” he said.
If you’d like to participate in Relay for Life, call the American Cancer Society at 410-721-4303 or visit http://www.cancer.org/docroot/gi/gi_1.asp.