MEDICAL CENTER MOVES: Cancer care center caters to patients

By Victoria Hurley-Schubert, Staff Writer
   Cancer patients will have a tranquil and comfortable new place to receive their treatments along with staff to guide them through the complicated, and often scary, process in the new Edward & Marie Matthews Center for Cancer Care at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.
   The outpatient center is an expansion of the hospital’s cancer program and the care begins once a patient enters the waiting room, which features a stone gas fireplace, soothing turquoises and seating areas like someone’s living room.
   ”We wanted to bring all the cancer services together so that care is not fragmented,” said Judy Neuman, director of cancer services at the hospital. “They can come to one place for all their treatments. We are bringing everything to the patient, our idea is to not have them go all over the hospital for services.”
   The centerpiece of the cancer center is the True Beam linear accelerator for radiation treatments.
   ”It’s an all-new digital linear accelerator. They redesigned and rebuilt the linear accelerator, which is the machine that gives radiation treatments from the ground up,” said Ms. Neuman. “It takes patient treatments where a patient would have to be on the table for 20 minutes to a half an hour can now be treated in five to seven minutes. It’s a big difference.”
   The $3.5 million machine also helps reduce damage to tissues surrounding tumors. Respiratory gating tracks the movement of the body as the patient breathes and gets the radiation to the right spot.
   ”If you can say something is beautiful for the treatment of cancer, when people walk in there, they are like ‘Wow,’” said Ms. Neumann. “I had one of my staff members say to me ‘I think I’m going to cry,’ because it is a very peaceful room. We tried to take the clinical equipment out as much as we can so when people are in there it’s peaceful.”
   Equipment is stored in lockers in a side room and the ceiling has panels that look like stained glass above the accelerator.
   The room is wired so the technicians can see and hear the patients as they receive treatments.
   Currently there is one linear accelerator, but there was a second vault built during hospital construction for expansion.
   The infusion room has the capacity for 21 patients at a time with 19 stations and two private rooms. The old hospital only had nine chairs for infusion, so this more than doubles capacity.
   In the new infusion room each station has a heated and massaging reclining chair that faces a garden and a comfortable chair for a companion.
   The cancer center also features exam rooms for patients who are meeting with doctors.
   There are separate changing areas and waiting rooms for the male and female patients as they wait for treatment.
   Patients will have access to psychotherapy, nutrition counseling and genetic counseling, said Ms. Neuman.
   With the patients coming to one place for all their needs, it allows for better coordination with the staff as each patient will be assigned a nurse to manage their care.
   There is also an oncology pharmacist right on site to mix chemotherapy for patients as they arrive for their treatment to insure the most accurate dosing, reduce waste and prevent interactions.
   Community partners are also being brought on site. The American Cancer Society will be on site for patient navigation and helping patients get community services. Cancer Care will be providing psychosocial services on site and the Cancer Support Community of New Jersey is helping with wellness education.
   A cancer boutique with wigs and prosthetics is also on site to help meet patients’ needs.
   The cancer center will treat patients from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but the hours can be expanded if the demand warrants, said Ms. Neuman.