Glenwood cancer center puts treatment closer to home | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood cancer center puts treatment closer to home

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen CO Colorado

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Imagine being a mother of four and a full-time elementary school teacher, with the busy lifestyle that goes along with all that and then finding out your life is being rudely interrupted by breast cancer.

“The truth of the matter is that your busy life doesn’t go away,” said Dr. Doug Rovira, a medical oncologist at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

But the stress involved with now having to deal with cancer, its potential consequences and the prospect of long travel and time lost to get proper treatments “can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Rovira said to members of the press Thursday.

That “personal face,” as he called it, goes a long way to explain the need for the new, $26 million, 30,000-square-foot Calaway-Young Cancer Center at Valley View.

The state-of-the-art cancer treatment center, part of a major hospital expansion that has been under construction for the past two years, is slated to start seeing patients Sept. 12.

The center also ushers in Valley View’s first-ever cancer radiation treatment program, including a new $3 million linear accelerator to administer treatments.

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A series of special private events to thank and honor donors, hospital staff, community leaders and construction contractors is planned for Sept. 6 and 7.

The new facility will be opened up for the public to see during an open house from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 8.

The cancer center is named after Carbondale philanthropists Jim and Connie Calaway and Alpine Bank founder and chairman Bob Young, who collectively donated $4 million for its construction.

The Valley View Hospital Foundation raised a total of $7 million through donations to help build the cancer center. The remaining $19 million to build the facility was secured through bonds, according to hospital Chief Executive Officer Gary Brewer.

“This cancer center is the result of a huge commitment by a lot of people, including those who were not only generous with their time but with their wallets,” Rovira added. “The community has built this cancer center, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

The larger, 145,000-square-foot, five-story hospital addition is the last phase of a 10-year hospital expansion project. The cancer center takes up the entire second floor, above a lower-level parking garage and valet entrance.

The third through fifth floors will remain under construction for the next several months, Brewer said.

Eventually moving to the third floor from another area of the hospital will be the cardiovascular and neurology departments. Doctor’s offices and hospital support will fill the remaining areas, while uses for some of the space is still being decided, he said.

The cancer center was something Valley View began to identify as a need only a few years ago, Brewer said.

“We have been doing oncology for several years, but as the hospital grew and as the valley grew, we knew that cancer services were something we needed to address,” he said.

A consultant was brought in to do the demographic and feasibility studies and determine if building a cancer center made sense.

The numbers supported it, Brewer said. Ultimately, though, the cancer center is meant to make treatment options, including the first-ever radiation treatment services offered locally, more convenient and more efficient for cancer patients.

“What we wanted to be able to do was offer these services as close to home as possible so people don’t have to drive so far in one direction or the other,” he said.

That includes coordinating closely with other health care facilities in the area, such as Grand River Hospital in Rifle and Aspen Valley Hospital.

“Our goal has never been to own the market but to offer what we can here and allow patients to go back into their home markets,” Brewer said.

“We’re very excited about the opening of their cancer center,” said Elaine Gerson, chief clinical officer at Aspen Valley Hospital, earlier this week.

While Aspen Valley Hospital offers surgical services to cancer patients, as well as chemotherapy, and Rovira holds a once-a-week-clinic at the Aspen hospital, cancer patients in need of radiation treatment faced travel to a facility outside the valley – Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards or a hospital in either Grand Junction or Denver.

“Cancer can require multiple visits for treatment. It’s nice to be able to go home and sleep in your own bed at night,” Gerson said.

Having a range of cancer treatment and support services under one roof is immensely important for what Dr. Ira Jaffrey, a medical oncologist at Valley View for 15 years, called “patient-centered treatment.”

Valley View’s cancer center is not only close to home; it was designed to feel like home, Jaffrey said.

Dealing with cancer is incredibly emotional not only for the patient but for their family members, he said.

“It is designed to be a more human-friendly place so that you feel like you’re at home instead of a sterile hospital environment,” Jaffrey said.

Doctors are also better able to work together to coordinate patient care with multiple services available in one facility, he said. There is even a range of ancillary care, such as massage and acupuncture therapy and cosmetic services, available in the center.

The high-tech, $3 million TrueBeam linear accelerator that will be used to provide radiation treatments is “without a doubt the world’s best,” radiation oncologist Dr. Bruce Greene said.

Greene came to Glenwood Springs last spring from Florida along with radiation physicist John Sweet to develop the radiation-therapy program at Valley View.

Standing beside the space-age-looking device, Greene and Sweet explained the state-of-the-art features that allow radiation treatments to be applied to tumors with pinpoint precision.

“This is the leading edge of technology, and it allows us to offer a full spectrum of modern radiation treatment services,” Greene said. “It’s really a game changer for people facing cancer in the Roaring Fork Valley.”

The machine includes a built-in CAT scanner. Special cameras in the treatment room detect a patient’s movements and tell the machine to shut down if they’ve moved out of position.

“The technology of producing radiation hasn’t changed in 40 years,” Sweet said. What has changed is the computerized technology that allows treatment to be administered more safely, more accurately and with less chance for side effects, he said.

The treatment room itself is built with 7-foot-thick, high-density concrete walls to prevent radiation from escaping the immediate area. A steel-plated door also seals the room.

Yet the interior decor is designed to be as comfortable and inviting as the other areas of cancer center, Greene said.

“We wanted an atmosphere that does not make a patient feel like they are doing these super-technological treatments,” he said.

Prior to doing the treatments, patients also are allowed to see the equipment and get an explanation of what they can expect.

“Long before they come here, we have also spent well over an hour with the patient and their families explaining what will happen and trying to demystify the procedure,” Greene said.

jstroud@postindependent.com