The first of two linear accelerators arrives at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North

The first of two linear accelerators arrives at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North

Smithers radiation patients will travel less

New linear accelerators will reduce travel times for radiation therapy patients in northern B.C., including Smithers.

The BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North in Prince George took delivery of the first of two linear accelerators this week and eventually will reduce travelling times for radiation therapy patients across northern B.C., including Smithers.

“This is a wonderful addition for the Smithers cancer patients,” chemotherapy nurse at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital, Lorretta Mehr said.

At present, cancer patients needing radiation treatments must travel to the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan or Vancouver Island for their treatments, which can add a certain amount of stress on certain levels.

“We’re very excited, this is a big milestone for all of the north,” communication specialist with the Northern Cancer Control Strategy, Sonya Kruger said.

Radiation treatments usually average 3-6 weeks, Mehr explained and having a treatment centre in Prince George means local patients will be able to come home on the weekend.

Having the facility in Prince George, will also make it easier for family members to travel with the patients, Mehr said of the few dozen radiation therapy patients in Smithers.

Although the accelerator is in place, there are still several steps to be taken before the two machines are in use, Chief Project Manager with the Northern Cancer Control Strategy, Hal Collier said.

“We need to get the machines in place, calibrated and tested, those are the most important tasks with this project,” Collier said.

Collier did say the project was on track and expected the first patients to be treated in late 2012.

To facilitate family members travelling with patients, a lodge, the Kordyban Lodge is being built adjacent to the

Building a facility specifically for radiation therapy involves a significant investment of capital.

In addition to the $3 million for each of the linear accelerators, there are also the salaries for the staff needed to administer the therapy, as well as the construction of a, “huge cement bunker,” to house the equipment, Collier said.