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Friends say woman’s cancer treatment at UNC delayed by football

CHAPEL HILL At least one cancer patient was told her radiation treatment was postponed Thursday because of UNC-Chapel Hill’s night football game, friends say.

Kathleen Keating, an elder-care specialist from Chapel Hill, said her friend received a phone call Wednesday informing her that her radiation treatment scheduled for Thursday would have to be done another day because of the game.

“I think it’s criminal,” Keating said. “I like football, but it’s not even an equation you need to do in your head. Football versus cancer treatment? It’s just not a question.”

The unnamed patient was too ill to be interviewed Thursday, Keating said. She has Stage 4 breast cancer and is in considerable pain, Keating said.

Officials with UNC Health Care said they had planned for the night game for months and had not scheduled patients after 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The game’s kickoff was 7:45 p.m.

“We’ve been planning quite in advance for the fact that we wouldn’t want our patients in a major traffic jam,” said UNC Health Care spokeswoman Karen McCall.

She said most patients were never scheduled for late Thursday afternoon. Any last-minute rescheduling probably had to do with factors unrelated to the game, McCall said.

Scheduling was further complicated Wednesday, when a piece of radiation equipment went down, said Dr. Shelley Earp, director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The radiation oncology clinics set up Saturday treatments to accommodate patients who could not be seen on Thursday, he said. Physicians determined who could wait “without harming their care,” he added.

“So it was a decision that was made by the providers,” Earp said. “Some of those people are going to have their therapy on Saturday. Some may not. It may not make a difference whether they have it every day. ... It was a considered decision.”

Earp said the clinics are used to working around other disruptions, such as holidays, weather events and other major university gatherings.

“We are who we are because of the university,” he said. “We are able to attract 300 world-class faculty who want to be in a university town. They could be anyplace in American, because they’re that quality.”

Earlier this week, university officials said they avoid midweek football games but that the Atlantic Coast Conference negotiates TV contracts.

Thursday’s nationally televised game between the Tar Heels and the University of Miami Hurricanes was during students’ fall break. It was the second Thursday football game in the campus’ history. The first was in 2009.

Keating said she calls on her friend every few days to check on her. She couldn’t believe it Wednesday when her friend said her upcoming radiation had been postponed.

“The system should not be doing this to people with cancer,” Keating said. “It’s just wrong.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559
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