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Published on November 17, 2010

Cancer War's Latest Weapon

November 17, 2010 - By Bill Braksick, The MidWeek

DEKALB – Cancer, perhaps more than any other disease, tends to invite militaristic terms into a conversation. People speak of the “war” against cancer, or of “battling” the disease.

So for Joseph Dant, vice president of business development at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, last week’s open house celebrating the opening of KishHealth System’s new Cancer Center was an appropriate time to extend that metaphor.

“We hope this is the next big weapon in the battle against cancer,” Dant said. “People get healing and hope by coming here.”

What greeted the many onlookers who attended the public open house was hardly combative. Instead, they found a warm, peaceful environment that’s more living room than battlefield.

“It’s a comforting place,” said Dr. Amit Bhate, medical director of radiation oncology. “We’re trying to make it very patient focused. They don’t feel like it’s a medical facility when they come here.” 

Bhate started with KishHealth System just last month, joining his mother, Dr. Bharati Bhate, the community’s first radiation oncologist who opened the Illinois Regional Cancer Center in 1993 as a joint venture with KishHealth System. 

She started in a 4,500 square-foot facility and now works alongside her son and medical oncologistsDr. Sabet Siddiqui and Dr. Ishaqe Memon in a state-of-the-art 26,000 square-foot facility that brings everything under one roof. 

“The vision was that for oncology care, we didn’t want them to have to leave the building,” Amit Bhate said. 

Services that were once scattered are now all available at The Cancer Center, including radiation oncology, hematology, pharmacy, laboratory, imaging and an American Cancer Society Patient Resource Center. An image center for skin care, wigs and clothing is available to help patients look and feel better. 

“Whatever their needs might be, we can help them,” Dant said. “We don’t just treat the medical part of it, then let them go.”

“The biggest advantage is we can share the data,” Memon said. “We can all get in a room where we can view the imaging, talk to each other and discuss the cases. Radiation, medical and surgery, social workers. Instead of the patient going to all of these people, we’re all there.”

State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hinckley, knows well the toll that cancer treatment can take. His wife is a cancer survivor, diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. 

“I think it’s great for the community to have a facility like this,” Pritchard said, adding that improvements in technology have paved the way toward rural areas to be able to have the kind of care formerly only available in cities. “This is close to the patient, and their support network of friends and family are close to the facility. But local doctors can still have world-class specialists right at their fingertips.”

The Cancer Center is now affiliated with Loyola University Health System for clinical trials and specialist consultations. Previously, someone needing treatment there, or eligible to participate in a clinical trial, had to travel to Loyola University Hospital in Maywood.

“The need for local care continues to increase,” Bhate said. “It affects their psychological care, and their care in general. Now, they can stay local for their treatment. They’re getting university care in their hometown.”

The Cancer Center opened Nov. 1, and Dant said prior to the public open house, an event was held in which current patients and cancer survivors were invited. More than 800 attended.

“It was a very emotional event,” Dant said. “It’s been overwhelming, as well received as we hoped it would be. The community support, both in terms of commitment to the center and fundraising, has been wonderful.”

Brad Copple, president of Kishwaukee and Valley West Community Hospitals, said the center showed a commitment to the community, to oncology care, and to the physicians.

“We’re delivering a high quality level of care,” Copple said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about is patient care.”

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