University City

CMC-University’s new radiation treatment center slated for 2014

After breaking ground on July 8, Carolinas Medical Center-University hopes to open its on-campus radiation oncology center in late spring 2014.

Having the radiation center on-site makes the most sense from a patient point of view, especially considering the current 5,900-square-foot center on University Executive Park Drive can’t be expanded, said Vicki Reich, assistant vice president of radiation oncology at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute.

The new construction on the CMC-University campus will be a little more than 10,700 square feet, she said.

Expansion work has begun on the North Tryon side of the medical center and is expected to be completed by May or June 2014, depending on weather, Reich said.

The total cost for the new facility, vault and replacement equipment is $9.75 million.

The new facility was also prompted in part by patient volume – in 2012, the center averaged 760 patients a month, the most ever, Reich said – as well as by technology having outgrown its current “vault.”

Dr. Mark Liang, medical director of Carolinas HealthCare System’s University Radiation Therapy Center, noted high-energy X-rays and other cancer treatments often require levels of radiation that center employees, those in surrounding offices, and people on the street don’t need to be exposed to.

“To block that, you need to use thick lead shielding; or concrete, which is easier to work with – but it has to be about 6 feet thick,” Liang explained, noting these areas are often called radiation vaults.

Not only will the move to campus provide more space for radiation treatment, officials said, but very old equipment will be replaced with new machines, such as a linear accelerator with state-of-the-art onboard imaging – among other features – that the current facility doesn’t have.

“The equipment (will) really let us treat just about any cancer in the body. Radiation is a very anti-cancer agent. We’ll be able to service all tumors on all parts of the body, and all ages of patients,” Liang said.

The new space also will have a room wired for video conferencing. Liang and other doctors can use that capability to participate in educational opportunities, collaborate with doctors at other locations and have increased access to clinical trials.

Reich said all those assets will allow the facility to provide the best possible care and live up to Levine’s mission to be a cancer institute without walls.

“ ‘Far,’ for some people is going all the way uptown to the main (Levine) campus,” Reich said. “(With the new facility) they can stay close to home, where transportation is easier … and receive state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatment.”