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Healthy Monday: Longstreet Clinic's Cancer Center is expanding

POSTED: July 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS /The Times

T. Loren Funk, right, chief operating officer of the Longstreet Clinic, takes a tour through the clinic's new expanded cancer center Tuesday afternoon with oncologists Dr. Timothy Carey, left, and Dr. Richard LoCicero, center. The new facility is expected to be completed in September.

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Construction is under way on a $1.2 million project that will almost double the capacity of the Longstreet Clinic’s Cancer Center.

This information could be viewed two ways, depending on whether you’re a pessimist or an optimist. It means that there are more people in Northeast Georgia who have cancer. But it also means that for those who develop the disease, there are more and better options for treatment.

"Some patients that previously could be treated only in a hospital can now be treated as outpatients," said Dr. Charles Nash. "Our practice, the Longstreet Cancer Center, has grown dramatically. We’ve added a new partner and expanded our services."

The practice currently has four oncologists: Nash, Richard LoCicero, Anup Lahiry and Tim Carey, who joined last year.

The group occupies about 8,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the Medical Arts Building at 725 Jesse Jewell Parkway.

But in September, the oncology practice will move to the third floor of the building, in a renovated section that will cover more than 13,000 square feet.

The new facility will have 29 chairs for chemotherapy, compared to just 13 now.

"Each chair will have its own TV," said Loren Funk, chief operating officer of the Longstreet Clinic. "There will be lots of windows, so the treatment space will be well-lit. The colors (of walls, floors and furnishings) will be warm and relaxing."

There will even be a simulated waterfall on one wall to enhance relaxation and promote healing.

"Patients are always willing to tell us exactly what they like, what they want, down to the types of chairs and TV screens," Nash said. "They were an integral part of our planning process."

Funk said Longstreet officials began working on the plan about a year ago. "Even before we added a fourth oncologist, we were already running out of treatment space," he said.

They’ve allowed room to add a fifth oncologist in the future, or even a sixth if necessary, Funk said.

There will also be a patient education center, with a conference room that can be used for seminars and support group meetings.

In the past 12 months, the Longstreet Cancer Center has seen more than 3,600 patients from throughout Northeast Georgia, Funk said. That number is expected to increase further as the region’s population grows and ages.

As people get older, their risk for any type of cancer goes up exponentially. But Nash said a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t necessarily portend a bad outcome.

"We have much improved treatment for colon cancer now," he said. "There are new drugs for kidney cancer and lung cancer. We now have more potential therapies that we can use."

The Cancer Center is also taking a holistic approach to treatment, adding services such as nutritional counseling and art therapy.

And, knowing that many people dread cancer treatment more than the disease itself, Nash hopes the new facility will make the experience much easier on patients.

"It should be beautiful," he said. "We can’t wait."



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