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NORMAL — Expansions and technology upgrades at the Community Cancer Center in Normal and at OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac are physical signs of treatment advances against cancer, including breast cancer.

The Community Cancer Center is wrapping up the first phase of a two-phase construction project.

Phase 1 is a two-story, 35,000-square-foot addition for expanded medical oncology (including more space for infusion), a larger lab, exam rooms, a conference room (mostly for doctors planning patients' treatment) and offices.

After Phase 1 work is complete this fall, work will resume on Phase 2. The second phase is renovation of some space and a 3,200-square-foot expansion for radiation oncology, a larger library, chapel and cafe. Phase 2 is expected to be complete next spring.

The two-phase project will more than double the size of the 27,000-square-foot outpatient cancer center, 407 E. Vernon Ave., Normal. The project cost is $9.7 million and fundraising continues.

The cancer center's TrueBeam STx radiation treatment system came into service in April. It replaced the cancer center's original linear accelerator and Cyberknife, which had become dated.

TrueBeam is an X-ray machine, CT machine and linear accelerator. The X-ray and CT make sure radiation is delivered to the precise location of the tumor at that time. Radiation is delivered by the linear accelerator, whose beams can be shaped to match the shape of the tumor, explained Dr. Shermian Woodhouse, radiation oncologist and the cancer center's medical director. Preserving healthy surrounding tissue means fewer side effects and better qualify of life.

While the cancer center's TomoTherapy unit is used primarily for prostate, head and neck tumors, TrueBeam is used primarily for breast and lung and for radiosurgery cases for the brain, Woodhouse said.

At Saint James, a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) suite opened during July. The opening of the suite marked completion of a multi-phase, $3.4 million Saint James expansion and renovation project that included a 3,000-square-foot addition for a larger emergency department and lab.

The new MRI suite has a lot of natural light and the MRI has a larger opening and is quieter, which eases patients who are anxious or claustrophobic, said nuclear medicine technologist Chuck Jiardina, who tested the MRI before it went into service.

The new suite is in renovated space that had been the lab. The suite is located near the operating room, emergency department and other imaging services, making it easier for inpatients and outpatients.

The new MRI has allowed Saint James to do breast imaging for the first time. From July through last week, 11 breast MRIs have been performed, spokeswoman Pam Meiner said.

MRIs of ligaments, the head and abdomen are prevalent.

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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