Community says the center would be “the first of its kind in the San Joaquin Valley.” Preliminary plans call for a three-story, 100,000-square-foot facility that would treat regional cancer cases as well as work with the UC San Francisco Fresno Medical Center on research.
“One in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetime,” said Paul Ortiz, vice president of cancer services at Community. “For me personally, I lost my father ... and my mother is currently battling colon cancer. All of us have been touched in some way.”
Ortiz said research conducted by Community over the last five months indicated the need for 94,000 square feet of additional treatment and research space in the Fresno-Clovis area. Community makes about 3,500 cancer diagnoses per year, he added, and most of these people are leaving the Valley to get treatment.
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“There’s probably $10 (million) to $20 million being spent out of town for treatment,” Ortiz said.
It will take about six to 10 months to plan the center and around 16 months to build it, Ortiz said, meaning it could open as early as the second half of 2018.
Dr. Uma Swamy, a radiation oncologist for Community Medical Centers, said the new cancer program would be a “one-stop shop” for local patients.
“We have a similar program in town for our breast cancer patients – everything under one roof – and we’ve received rave reviews,” Swamy said. “We want to develop that for all cancers.”
UC Davis Medical Center
Swamy said the new center would enable patients’ families to be regularly present during doctor’s appointments, treatments and follow-ups – something research has shown improves recovery chances. It would also drastically cut down travel and lodging costs for those families.
The new cancer center would allow on-the-spot consultations for the teams of doctors often working together on one patient, Swamy said.
The research element will also allow patients access to clinical trials that are still in their infancy, Swamy said.
The goal, Community says, is for the National Cancer Institute to name the new center a Designated Cancer Center. There are currently 10 such centers in California, but none in the San Joaquin Valley. The closest one is currently at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Community plans to pay for the cancer center with money generated by the hospitals and through fundraising. Once completed, all outpatient procedures will be conducted at the new center. The handful of current cancer outpatient centers would be repurposed for other uses.
According to Community Medical Centers, the Valley will see a 29 percent increase in cancer surgeries and a 26 percent increase in radiation treatments by 2024. Cancer is currently the second-highest cause of death locally behind heart disease, but it will rise to the top in the next few years if current trends continue.