Cancer center to open for tours

Open house March 16 at state-of-the-art facility in N. Arundel Hospital

Glen Burnie

March 09, 2003|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Anne Arundel County residents will get a chance next weekend to view North Arundel Hospital's newest addition: a $15 million cancer treatment center.

The hospital will offer tours of the Tate Cancer Center from noon to 3 p.m. March 16. Medical professionals and the center's staff will be on hand, and free screenings for skin and oral cancer and take-home colon cancer screening kits will be available. Blood pressure and blood type screenings and cancer risk assessments will also be offered.

Hospital officials say the opening of the 60,000-square- foot center in Glen Burnie means many cancer patients and their families won't have to travel far for care. They also stress that patients will be able to see specialists in every stage of treatment - from three-dimensional radiation planning and radiation therapy, to chemotherapy and surgery - in one facility. The center will also offer support services, education and community outreach.

Anne Arundel County has one of the state's highest cancer rates: In 2001, nearly 435 of 100,000 county residents were diagnosed with cancer.

The county's other major hospital, Anne Arundel Medical Center, is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $13 million to expand its cancer center, with a focus on acquiring new technology.

North Arundel Hospital staff raised more than $400,000 for its new center.

"This is a wonderful statement about how important this program is to the staff," said Kathy McCollum, a North Arundel vice president and executive director of the new center. "The average gift was $1,000, and it came from workers like housekeepers and nurses."

Work on the building began 18 months ago. The design is by architectural firm Cannon Design of Baltimore.

Two of the center's three floors are devoted to oncology; the third is reserved for other medical specialties.

Complete treatment

"The concept of a multidisciplinary approach to medicine is quite simple," McCollum said.

Beginning with lung cancer, the center will establish an entire course of treatment for each form of cancer. A patient can go to the center to see all of the physicians who could potentially be involved in treatment, McCollum said.

"The patient basically stands still, and we revolve around them," said Dr. Whitney Burrows, assistant professor of surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of thoracic surgery at North Arundel.

The staff includes two full-time and two part-time medical oncologists, a full-time radiation oncologist and several surgical oncologists, McCollum said. Doctors began seeing patients in the center last month.

North Arundel Hospital is part of the University of Maryland Medical System. Specialists at the new center are working cooperatively with counterparts at the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore via computer link.

Top technology

Hospital officials said the center's technology is state of the art. The ACQSim Computed Tomography Simulator, which cost nearly $1 million, maps a patient's treatment area for radiation therapy. A bank of computers in an adjoining office receives the CT Simulator's three-dimensional images and transfers them to an Elekta Linear Accelerator, which administers the radiation.

An advantage of the $1.4 million linear accelerator is the adjustable positioning of its lasers, allowing the beams to follow the irregular contours of a tumor. This makes it possible to pinpoint and destroy cancer cells while sparing normal tissue.

Patients undergoing treatment can watch a kaleidoscope of changing colors across the ceiling, produced by an intricate overhead illumination system.

In the chemotherapy department, each individual infusion bay is furnished with its own leather reclining chair and television.

The bays overlook the "healing garden," an area where patients will be able to stroll along a scenic trail and rest beside a waterfall.

Work on the quarter-acre garden started a few weeks ago, and designers hope to have it be completed by planting season, said Joe Burkhardt, project manager with the Baltimore landscape architectural firm of Mahan Rykiel Associates.

The landscapers will incorporate elements that appeal to the senses such as the sound of moving water, the fragrance of flowers and the touch of softly textured leaves.

"Another interesting thing," said Burkhardt, "is that the gardens are not only for cancer patients but for their family and friends."

It's a place where family members can gather for a respite from the hospital environment, he said.

Image recovery

Another innovation in cancer treatment is the center's Image Recovery Center.

When it opens next month, patients will be able to meet with hair stylists to select wigs and receive hairstyling guidance, or stop by for a facial or massage.

The center has a dressing area where mastectomy patients can be fitted in privacy for breast forms.

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