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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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New cancer center opens at MWH

Mary Washington officials cut the ribbon this morning on its new cancer center.

The first patients arrived for treatment this morning at the region’s newest radiation center.

Mary Washington Healthcare’s $11 million Regional Cancer Center opened beside the traffic circle on the Mary Washington Hospital campus.

The new center will house two linear accelerators to provide radiation treatments for cancer patients. One of the accelerators will be moved there from the Cancer Center of Virginia on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County.

The other is expected to be the “heart and soul” of the new center, said Dr. John Chinault, medical director. It will be capable of standard radiation treatments, as well as advanced radiosurgery treatments for hard-to-treat cancers.

“In the morning, I can do a very small brain tumor with a radiosurgery technique,” Chinault said. “In the afternoon, I can treat a lung cancer or a prostate cancer.”

Bushra Rana, a medical physicist, operates the cancer center's new TruBeam accelerator.

The machine is a $4.5 million TruBeam STx accelerator, manufactured by Varian Medical Systems.

At this morning’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Walt Kiwall, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Mary Washington, called the arrival of radiosurgery capability as “a defining moment for cancer services in our region.”

Until now, patients with hard-to-reach brain cancers, for example, had to go to a larger hospital, like the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, for treatment.

“Now our folks here will not have to travel great distances to have this high technology, highly productive form of treatment,” Chinault said.

The new cancer center will eventually replace the Cancer Center of Virginia on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County.

Some patients, who now get radiation treatments on Route 3, will transfer to the Fredericksburg center. Other patients, who have just received their cancer diagnosis, will start their radiation treatments at the new center.

When the patients who remain at the Cancer Center of Virginia have finished their course of treatments, the center will close.

“We’ll start here slowly, and the Cancer Center of Virginia will gradually decrease,” Chinault said. “By the end of September, it should be completely shut-down.”

Eventually the new center will be treating about 30 patients a day, Chinault said. Stafford Hospital’s cancer center, which opened in May, is now open full time and treating 30 patients a day, Chinault said.

Mary Washington will retain the Cancer Center building on Route 3 and reuse it for other programs, Kiwall said.