Comfort and care, close to home
Special to The Union
Cancer is a word that no one wants to hear, yet it affects one out of three people in their lifetime. Thanks to advancements in detection and prevention, the cancer death rate has declined steadily over the past two decades, according to annual statistics reporting from the American Cancer Society.
As of 2015, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 26 percent from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to nearly 2.4 million deaths averted during this time period.
In both rural and urban areas alike, treatment, care and education are considered a community’s greatest weapon to fight cancer.
Luckily residents of western Nevada County have access to all three at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Cancer Center. Nationally-accredited and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, the SNMH Cancer Center can easily hold its own when compared to other facilities, which is good news for locals seeking treatment and support close to home.
Four physicians work on behalf of the Cancer Center, as well as a variety of specialized staff members. The center offers a variety of services including advanced cancer treatment, hormone therapy, surgical oncology, biological therapy, medical oncology, chemotherapy, and radiation oncology.
The center philosophy focuses on treating the whole person and not just the disease. In addition to regaining physical health, the center also helps patients mentally and spiritually recover by offering free support classes, covering topics such as losing a loved one to caring for someone with cancer.
The center also provides the free services of a nutritionist to consult with patients as needed.
Over the years, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation has worked to provide the Cancer Center with specialized equipment such as a Radiation Oncology Simulator, Pinnacle Software and a Linear Accelerator – a machine that customizes high energy x-rays or electrons to conform to a tumor’s shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.
Always striving to provide the best health care possible for local residents, SNMH’s Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Dr. David Kraus recently led the charge in partnering with Mercy General Hospital and Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento to create a new Integrated Network Cancer Program.
The goal of the network is to combine shared knowledge, expertise and resources to connect patients with the best treatments, specialists and innovations.
The program has also provided the SNMH Cancer Center with Mindi Soares, RN, a nurse navigator. Soares is charged with assisting patients diagnosed with cancer in accessing a wide variety of care options and resources, from identifying oncologists and surgeons, to emotional, physical and financial support.
The INCP will also create an opportunity for patients to participate in clinical trials, testing new cancer treatment and research. As a combined network, all three hospitals will collaborate on clinical trials and they will be offered at every site.
Another exciting area of advancement is molecular testing (also known as precision medicine). Molecular testing allows doctors to look at tumor tissue for certain “biomarkers,” which are substances or abnormalities that can be detected in the tumor tissue and used to predict prognosis and guide treatment.
Besides offering quality, community health care, the SNMH Cancer Center also offers a casual and comfortable atmosphere for patients and their loved ones to begin their healing journey following a cancer diagnosis.
Harpists can often be heard playing for patients awaiting appointments and a variety of books line the walls. In warmer weather, a small garden is open for those wishing to sit outside.
The center also offers comforts such as hand-knit beanies, made by volunteers, and meals created through the Comfort Cuisine Program. According to Hospital Foundation Executive Director Kimberly Parker, the Comfort Cuisine Program was created to ease cancer patient caregiver stress by offering prepared meals for them and their loved ones.
“The idea was simple, but the impact has become enormous: provide a nutritious and delicious meal to cancer patients and their families so that they have one less thing to worry about and the patient has access to properly prepared food,” said Parker.
For both Dr. Kraus and Parker, the Sierra Nevada Cancer Center is something the community can be proud of – and something that will benefit all those touched by cancer now and for generations to come.
“The most effective cancer medicines and radiation technology are no longer the exclusive domain of large urban or academic cancer centers,” Dr. Kraus said. “Access and expertise are available right here in our hospital. What makes the Cancer Center special is the cohesiveness of our staff and their devotion towards our patients, treating everyone like a neighbor and friend.”
For more information on Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Center and how you can support local cancer patients, please call 530-477-9700.
For more information on how you can get a Comfort Cuisine meal, please call the Cancer Center at 530-274-6600.
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