Smithers connected to P.G. cancer centre

Although Smithers is hours away from Prince George, the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is making a difference to local cancer patients.

Although Smithers is hours away from Prince George, the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is making a difference to local cancer patients.

“The idea of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is to provide support to communities such as Smithers,” oncology general practitioner at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital, Elizabeth Bastian said.

Bastian, is one of three general practitioner oncologists in Smithers who are responsible for all patients referred to the cancer clinic in Smithers.

The Northern Cancer Control Strategy, a four year project, is a collaboration between Northern Health, the Provincial Health Authority and the BC Cancer Agency, board chair, Northern Health Dr. Charles Jago said.

“The strategy is bigger than a building or a service,” Jago said.

“It establishes a model of rural cancer care in British Columbia, Canada and beyond.”

The strategy is designed to support cancer patients and their physicians across northern B.C. with a primary goal of providing care to people as close to home as possible, with the aim of minimizing the need to travel and disruption to family life.

“Cancer is a very stressful disease on the patient and their families,” Bastian said.

“Ideally, treatment is best done where there is a base of support.

“So if you can stay in your community for as much of your treatment as possible, surrounded by family and friends, the outcomes are even better because of the emotional support.”

The genesis of the strategy came on the heels of a visit to the oncology treatment centre in Smithers several years ago, Jago said.

“It was at that point we realized that what was important was the network of cancer care treatment centres across the north,” he said.

The strategy has two primary goals, first to foster and support a network of cancer treatment centres across northern B.C. and second to build a cancer treatment centre in Prince George to support the rural treatment centres.

For Smithers, the first step was to develop the community cancer centre, to develop a core of professional health-care givers to support cancer care in Smithers.

Part of the strategy was to renovate a wing of the second floor to provide cancer care and other services.

“It’s much more relaxed and home-like,” Bastian said of the renovations completed not quite two years ago.

The cancer treatment centre includes a team of oncology nurses who work with the oncology physicians.

“They’re incredibly knowledgeable and we have team meetings looking at ways how we can improve the care of our patients.”

An important part of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is the establishment of a support network for the rural cancer treatment centres and that is done by teleoncology units across northern B.C., including Smithers.

Teleconferencing provides local patients with access to specialists through videoconferencing.

Along with videoconferencing capabilities is the formation of a regional support team consisting of a dietitian, pharmacist social worker and education coordinator, all with specific knowledge in the care of cancer patients.

All of these resource people are available through videoconference, not only for local care givers, but also for patients and their families.

“This is another big step,” Bastian said.

The motivation behind these initiatives is to reduce the amount of travel patients have to do to receive treatment and consequently allow patients to spend as much time at home.

Having access to a pharmacist specializing in cancer medication is also very useful for local physicians and patients.

Not all patients respond to medications in the same way and some patients may also have adverse reactions or severe side-effects with some of the medications.  Also, Bastian said, the number of cancer-related drugs in increasing rapidly and having access to a specialized pharmacist provides local physicians and pharmacists with added expertise.

“It gives us a lot more safety in dealing with drug-related issues with our patients,” Bastian said.

“The regional team is a huge step forward in our ability to improve the care we can give our patients.”

The increase in services available locally has been very much appreciated by local cancer patients.

“I think they’re very happy with the care we offer,” Bastian said.

“They can access really good quality care right here in Smithers.”

The second goal of the Northern Cancer Care Strategy, and by no means less important, is the building of a new cancer care and research centre in Prince George.

The facility will include a wing specifically designed for radiation therapy.  Patients needing radiation therapy will no longer have to travel to the Okanagan or to the Lower Mainland to receive their treatments.

The proximity of the radiation centre in Prince George also means patients, from Smithers for example, will be able to come home for the weekend.

“It’s important for them to be able to come home on the weekends,” Bastian said.

“It’s not easy to have families along for five or six weeks.”

Also key, is the construction of the Kordyban Lodge by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The lodge will provide accommodation for patients and family members while they are in Prince George for treatment.

Although Smithers is hours away from Prince George, the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is making a difference to local cancer patients.

“The idea of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is to provide support to communities such as Smithers,” oncology general practitioner at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital, Elizabeth Bastian said.

Bastian, is one of three general practitioner oncologists in Smithers who are responsible for all patients referred to the cancer clinic in Smithers.

The Northern Cancer Control Strategy, a four year project, is a collaboration between Northern Health, the Provincial Health Authority and the BC Cancer Agency, board chair, Northern Health Dr. Charles Jago said.

“The strategy is bigger than a building or a service,” Jago said.

“It establishes a model of rural cancer care in British Columbia, Canada and beyond.”

The strategy is designed to support cancer patients and their physicians across northern B.C. with a primary goal of providing care to people as close to home as possible, with the aim of minimizing the need to travel and disruption to family life.

“Cancer is a very stressful disease on the patient and their families,” Bastian said.

“Ideally, treatment is best done where there is a base of support.

“So if you can stay in your community for as much of your treatment as possible, surrounded by family and friends, the outcomes are even better because of the emotional support.”

The genesis of the strategy came on the heels of a visit to the oncology treatment centre in Smithers several years ago, Jago said.

“It was at that point we realized that what was important was the network of cancer care treatment centres across the north,” he said.

The strategy has two primary goals, first to foster and support a network of cancer treatment centres across northern B.C. and second to build a cancer treatment centre in Prince George to support the rural treatment centres.

For Smithers, the first step was to develop the community cancer centre, to develop a core of professional health-care givers to support cancer care in Smithers.

 

 

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