For cancer patients northern Alberta, the new Grande Prairie Cancer Centre means game-changing treatment can happen closer to home.
Construction of the regional hospital and cancer centre has been completed, and the facility, which is slated to open by the end of 2021, is now in its final stages of preparation. With a total budget of $850 million, the new centre will help to ensure that patients will no longer have to travel to Edmonton to access cutting-edge medical technology.
Dr. Petra Grendarova, a radiation oncologist with the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre, says two linear accelerators were installed at the new facility in November 2020. Linear accelerators use highly accurate and concentrated radiation to create energy x-rays and electrons that destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding tissue.
“Linear accelerators are the backbone for current radiation treatment techniques,” says Grendarova. “These machines will be serving northern Alberta cancer patients for the years to come.”
Grendarova says the facility will also boast a CT simulation machine, an integral part and first step in the radiation planning process.
The Grande Prairie Cancer Centre is part of the final phase of the province’s Radiation Therapy Corridor project, which expands access to radiation treatment beyond Edmonton and Calgary.
While the equipment is essential for its accuracy in practice, Grendarova says it also represents a milestone when it comes to access.
“It will greatly improve accessibility of radiation treatment for people with cancer who live in northern Alberta,” she says, adding that, currently, all area patients who require radiation treatment have to travel. “And for a large proportion of these patients, [it will allow] them to be treated while staying at home and spending more time with their family.”
Providing comforting care is an approach the team hopes to apply further through a fundraising partnership with the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The campaign aims to raise $1 million for the regional centre to create and maintain a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. The intention behind the holistic design stems from the diverse population the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre serves — more than a 100-kilometre radius, including multiple First Nations communities, towns and hamlets.
“The whole point of the new cancer centre is to create an atmosphere of wellness and bring some brightness into the centre itself,” says Sandra Guzzwell, ambulatory and systemic therapy unit manager at the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre. “It’s quite a beautiful space, and getting that wellness theme, we want to carry it throughout the cancer centre. Wellness means emotional, physical and mental wellness, so everything we do will be centred around that and around cultural diversity.”
Because the centre already has the technology and infrastructure in place, funds from the campaign will be used to design and decorate the building inside and out with artwork from the various Indigenous and cultural groups in the area. “I think that’s a big key — the inclusiveness,” Guzzwell says. “Inclusive wellness and healing, that’s what we’re trying to create.”
By The Numbers
The radius the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre serves
The number of Albertans who visited the former Grande Prairie Cancer Centre in 2019
The goal set by the Alberta Cancer Foundation for its campaign to raise funds for regional cancer centres