Cancer cases in Kamloops and the surrounding region are expected to increase by a third over the next 20 years as the population grows and ages. Compounding this significant forecasted growth in demand for cancer care, people in the area currently facing the disease need to travel to BC Cancer – Kelowna to access some treatment, including life-saving radiation therapy.
The government’s approval of a business plan for a new BC Cancer centre in Kamloops is incredibly welcome news, says Dr. Bruce Newmarch, a local urgent care doctor in Kamloops and a prostate cancer survivor who received his treatment in Kelowna.
“For our more fragile patients, those that are metastatic or who are experiencing bone pain, it can be extremely difficult to drive back and forth. And in the winter the Okanagan connector is a nightmare,” he says of the four-plus hour return trip.
“It can also be a real challenge for elderly patients that don’t have family. There is a van that goes to Kelowna but it’s a long journey and while their treatment may only take a few minutes they then have to wait for other patients to finish their therapy. It’s a long day.”
Dr. Newmarch says when faced with exhaustive travel — some patients require radiation therapy every day for up to six weeks — some older patients choose instead to opt out of treatment altogether.
In addition to space for radiation treatment, the new BC Cancer centre in Kamloops will offer radiation therapy planning including a CT Simulator, an outpatient ambulatory care unit including 10 exam rooms and two consult rooms for radiation therapy services, an additional MRI suite, patient arrival and check-in areas and three linear accelerator vaults.
In its first year it’s projected to support patients with 6,600 radiation consults and follow up appointments and 1,000 patient radiation courses of treatment — saving patients time away from work, family and friends and the inconvenience and added cost of childcare, travel and accommodation.
“This is an exciting step forward in our work to bring new treatment options to this region,” says Dr. Kim Chi, executive vice-president and chief medical officer, BC Cancer. “The new BC Cancer centre in Kamloops will increase our capacity to deliver radiation treatment to the people of Kamloops and surrounding communities for generations to come.”
“Essential to bringing cancer care close to home for our loved ones, the BC Cancer Foundation looks forward to partnering with our generous donors to help make this a world-class facility,” says BC Cancer Foundation President & CEO Sarah Roth.