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A central location to fight cancer

Construction begins on Cancer Care Center in Lewiston

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – Maine has the twelfth-highest rate of cancer deaths in the United States.

Having a central location for patients to find the services they need to fight cancer is vital in achieving the best results.

That’s the goal behind Central Maine Healthcare’s new Cancer Care Center that is in the early stages of construction on the campus of Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street in Lewiston.

Cancer was the leading cause of death in Maine in 2018, the latest year for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows national rankings. Maine recorded 3,275 deaths in 2018, or 162.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Heart disease was the next highest cause of death for Mainers that year.

The new Cancer Care Center is planned as a three-story structure that will have 52,000 square feet of space for offices, operating rooms, and recovery areas. It is designed to fit in with the look of existing buildings in the neighborhood.

An artist’s rendering of the new Central Maine Healthcare Cancer Care Center that is being built beside the main entrance to the Central Maine Medical Center on Main Street in Lewiston. With an expected completion in February 2022, the facility will have about 52,000 square feet of space and will be a central location for the treatment of cancer patients from throughout Maine. (Image courtesy of CMH)

Groundbreaking took place at the end of October, and construction vehicles were on the campus at Central Maine Medical Center the first week of November, removing the asphalt surface of the parking lot at the main entrance to the hospital facilities to make way for the new building.

 “We needed this facility to make sure that we are keeping with current technology and demand,” said Jeffrey Brickman, FACHE, the President and CEO of Central Maine Health, which is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving 400,000 people living in central, western, and mid-coast Maine. CMH’s hospital facilities include Central Maine Medical Center, Bridgton Hospital, and Rumford Hospital. In Topsham, CMH’s Topsham Care Center provides centralized care outside of a hospital setting.

Planning for the new cancer center began after Brickman’s arrival with CMH about four years ago.

Doctors from throughout the area have joined the Oncology Institute at CMMC to provide services to patients from throughout the southern and central Maine area.

Dr. Hector Tarraza, who joined CMH at the end of April as its new Chief of the Oncology Institute and Associate Chief of Surgery, said it’s estimated that over 8,000 people in Maine will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. “Over time, one in four Mainers will be faced with the diagnosis of cancer, so the numbers are staggering.”

 “It requires an extensive amount of resources to take care of so many people,” he said. The approach to treatment has changed over the years, and “The way we treat cancer now is no longer just one doctor, or two doctors. It’s a multi-disciplinary team of individuals with numerous expertise to be able to come together and provide a health plan that will best match the disease so that most can survive and live a healthy and fruitful life.”

“What we’re doing here at Central Maine Medical Center is to put together that multi-disciplinary team under one house,” Tarraza said. When the building is completed in February, 2022, patients will have one location for services that include  surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, precision medicine, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplants.

The single building is not the sole place for treatment, however, Terraza said. “We’re a healthcare system. It involves regional hospitals, such as Rumford and Bridgton. It involves care along the coastline in Topsham. It involves a tremendous amount of primary care facilities of doctors and nurse practitioner professionals who . . . need the resources and back up of cancer specialists when they are confronted with individuals in their practices who are diagnosed with cancer.”

Central Maine Health keys on the three basic elements of cancer treatment – screening for cancer, diagnosing cancer, and treating cancer, Terraza said. In addition, Central Maine Health works with primary care doctors for preventative care by “promoting good, healthy lifestyles.”

Androscoggin County has the highest rate of cancer in Maine, followed by Aroostook County, then Cumberland County. The primary cancer diagnoses are for lung cancers, followed by pancreatic cancer.

Patients have been traveling from northern Maine to Maine Medical Center for cancer treatment for many years, and CMH expects to provide care that is more comprehensive and closer to their homes with its new facility.

Patients who are being treated for cancer or recovering after treatment can find help in dealing with effects of the disease and treatment at the Dempsey Center, which has locations in Lewiston and South Portland. The mission of the Dempsey Center is to help cancer survivors.

Central Maine Healthcare and its oncology program have received diagnostic imaging accreditation from the American College of Radiology, along with a national accreditation program for breast centers from the American College of Surgeons, and a Women’s Choice Award as being Among America’s Best Hospitals for Cancer Care. CMH has been ranked as Grade A four times in two years by the Leapfrog Group, which rates hospitals exclusively on hospital safety, providing consumers with critical information on how likely they are to experience accidents, injuries, errors or harm while in the hospital.

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