Construction has started on a cancer treatment center in Belcamp which, the developers say, should mean Harford and Cecil county patientswill no longer have to make daily trips to Baltimore or Delaware forchemotherapy and other cancer related services.
The Upper Chesapeake Oncology Center in Riverside Medical Park at Belcamp and Brass Mill roads is slated for completion in October. An opening is planned for December.
The 5,000-square-foot center will primarily serve residents in Harford and Cecil counties, which lack cancer treatment facilities.
The Upper Chesapeake Health System will operate its cancer center in conjunction with Oncology Services Corporation Inc., a State College,Pa.-based firm specializing in community-based cancer therapy. UpperChesapeake Health System runs Fallston General and Harford Memorial hospitals and a network of family-care centers in Harford and Cecil counties.
The rise in national, state and local incidences of cancer prompted the need for a Harford treatment center, said Jeffrey A. Flick, senior vice president of system operations and development for Upper Chesapeake Health System.
Recent studies have found that theincidence of cancer in Maryland is higher than national averages.
Data collected from 1983 to 1987 by the National Cancer Institute and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene show the age-adjusted rate of cancer deaths in the United States is 171 per 100,000. The statewide average is 192.8 per 100,000.
The averages in Harford and Cecil counties are 185 and 183.5 deaths per 100,000, respectively.
Neither Fallston General nor Harford Memorial hospitals had adequate space to accommodate the treatment center, Flick said. Also,he believes area patients will find Belcamp's central county location and its proximity to Interstate 95 and U.S. 40 very accessible.
Julie Howell, an American Cancer Society field representative for Harford and Cecil counties, said the treatment center should offer relief to patients, their families and volunteer drivers, who transport patients to and from treatment centers in Baltimore.
"I think (the center) will relieve some stress for these people," she said.
The center will be managed by a radiation oncologist -- a physician trained in treating cancers using radiation technology.
Treatment will feature radiation-therapy services for patients with diagnosed cancersand tumors.
Each patient's treatment is individually planned using both a computer and a simulator, allowing for exact targeting of the tumor with the maximum protection to the surrounding healthy tissue.
The center will provide residents with expanded cancer prevention and education programs, early detection opportunities and coordinated patient treatment.
Flick estimated that the center would serve about 250 to 300 patients a year or about 26 patients daily. Generally, patients undergo 20 to 30 treatments, he said.
Cancer patients often undergo treatment for as many as five to six weeks, sometimes making daily visits to the treatment center.
Besides providing chemotherapy and radiation services, the treatment center also will offerpsychological support services, and nutrition counseling. In addition, free van service will operate daily to transport patients to and from the treatment center.
Howell said she was hopeful the center'sopening also would increase volunteerism in the counties. Volunteers, she said, are always needed for tasks, ranging from fund raisers tosupport services.