Cancer treatment dream realised
Cancer patients in Bermuda will now be able to benefit from world-class, cutting-edge radiation treatments.
After more than two years of hard work, the island's first radiation therapy unit was officially opened at the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Radiation therapy is deemed one of the “pillars of cancer treatment” and the new facility is expected to benefit about 200 patients locally per year at no extra cost to them.
“Every aspect of Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre's Radiation Therapy Unit has been designed with the patient in mind; to provide the best clinical outcomes and patient experience,” Chris Fosker, the Centre's medical director and clinical oncologist, said. “Our patients can find comfort in knowing that we have the best team available to work in Bermuda and we continue to work in clinical affiliation with Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Centre.”
He added that uninsured and underinsured patients in need of radiation treatment will be given equal access to the services at no additional cost to them.
The project was started after a review of gaps in cancer care locally in 2014 and the conclusion that the lack of radiation treatment was the most significant.
Since 2015, specialists from the DF/BWCC have been working with BCHC to design, construct and develop the new facility. And after nine months of construction, the $10 million project was completed on time and within budget and plans are under way to treat the first patient. Currently more than 25 patients are waiting to receive potentially life-saving or pain relief radiation.
“Our dream has become a reality,” Judy White, president of the BCHC board of directors, said. “No longer will approximately 200 people every year have to travel overseas for their radiation treatment. Cancer patients can now be treated in Bermuda, allowing them to receive important emotional support during their treatment and continue with much of their normal lives at home rather than being overseas for four to nine weeks.”
BCHC will operate the service, using radiotherapy protocols that adhere to DF/BWCC protocols, and experts from DF/BWCC will be available to advise BCHC clinicians. Patient treatment plans will be designed in collaboration with the team at DF/BWCC and will be administered by the Bermuda team led by Dr Fosker. A diverse team of radiation specialists have been recruited including a medical physicist, a radiation nurse and a team of radiation therapists, including a returning Bermudian.
BCHC executive director Tara Curtis said: “Our mutual partnering for this initiative was and is about providing the best possible world-class care for patients.”
“We now leave the construction phase of Bermuda's first radiation treatment facility and the work now transitions to our clinical team and our clinical affiliate partners at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Centre. The team has already begun the planning for our first patient treatment.”
Daphne Haas-Kogan, DF/BWCC's Department of Radiation Oncology chairwoman and professor at Harvard Medical School, said the first patient she had at DF/BWCC was Bermudian and that it opened her eyes to the difficulties of travelling overseas for treatment.
“That is exactly why we are here — we are here to help cancer patients in Bermuda receive superb treatment for their cancer here on their island among their family and friends, where they can sleep in their own beds, embrace and be embraced by their families, friends and this wonderful community.”
Dr Haas-Kogan added: “Our radiation therapy researchers and clinicians are at the cutting edge of targeted therapies, leading international clinical trials to discover newer and more effective therapies and pioneering the latest technological innovations. We are committed to providing the most up-to-date personalised radiation treatment to generate the best outcomes possible for our patients.”
Bermuda Hospitals Board is also working closely with BCHC, with CT scans — the first step of radiation therapy — to be performed at the hospital.
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