Breast cancer is never a good diagnosis, but at least Jan Clark didn’t have to travel far for radiation therapy.
The 68-year-old went through a month of radiation therapy at the Braselton Cancer Center, which opened June 28 in Medical Plaza 1 at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton campus in South Hall.
“I like to think I don’t have it anymore just because the area that was cancerous was removed and the radiation was just to make sure that no little cells happen to drop along the way somewhere during the surgery,” Clark said.
The center has given residents of the fast-growing area another, closer option for a variety of cancer treatments, as doctors see the center as a “one stop resource” for cancer care.
“We run a pretty busy clinic,” said Dr. Malay Rao, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group’s primary radiation oncologist in Braselton.
The center combines Longstreet Clinic’s Medical Oncology and Hematology and NGPG’s Radiation Oncology.
Before opening, patients “had to travel to multiple places. Now there are less miles to drive and steps to take,” officials said at the opening.
Because cancer patients see a variety of doctors, from surgeons to oncologists, “having that collaborative, comprehensive approach to how we deliver care is important,” said Mimi Collins, Longstreet CEO.
“The Braselton campus really gave us that platform to be able to envision what (that type of) facility could look like,” she said.
Dr. Geoffrey Weidner, NGMC’s medical director of radiation oncology and a radiation oncologist with NGPG, said, “While we have been providing comprehensive cancer care in Braselton for many years now, this new space provides a more cohesive environment and access to both medical oncology/hematology and radiation oncology services, as well as a new dedicated entrance providing easier access for our cancer patients.”
“The Cancer Center allows opportunity for better collaboration between providers,” Rao said. “We are literally just steps from each other, so we can more efficiently coordinate patient care and treatment planning without ever leaving the building.”
Kevin Matson, vice president of facilities and support services for Northeast Georgia Health System, said, “When a patient visits this new cancer center, the level of focus we’ve placed on the patient experience is going to be obvious, from the convenience of the parking to the layout of all the comprehensive services. Navigating cancer care can be very challenging for patients.”
All went smoothly for David Wheeler, who’s undergoing immunotherapy for lung cancer.
“They are very kind, very understanding,” he said of his experience at the center.
Also plugged into area cancer care is Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, which gives patients access to treatment plans and more than 275 existing therapeutic clinical trials, doctors have said.
“When a very high level of care is necessary, something like a bone marrow transplant or a complicated surgical procedure we may not do in Gainesville, this (Emory) association has helped us,” said Dr. Charles Nash III, Longstreet Clinic oncologist and medical director of NGHS’ Cancer Services.
“Plus, we have patients coming from Emory to Gainesville to participate in trials we do that maybe they don’t,” he said.
Looking ahead, the center will be purchasing a second linear accelerator, which shoots radiation into a target area designed by the doctor. Construction to allow for the equipment is set for completion in January 2023, with first treatments beginning in spring of 2023, Rao said.