A New Cancer Treatment Center Is Coming To La Paz

No more going home for treatment
BY: JAMES BELL

State authorities have recently announced that a modern, state of the art cancer treatment and diagnostic center will be built in La Paz in 2017. It will be equipped with high-tech machines that will make effective radiation therapies available for state residents. Construction plans for the State Center of Oncology as well as federal financial support  have been approved and by the various federal agencies.

This announcement comes as good news to Southern Baja residents, especially at a time when federal budget cuts are being carried out across the country. The oncology center will be furnished with analytical equipment capable of reliably diagnosing several important cancer types. (Are there unimportant cancer types? Not if they’re in our body!)

The sophisticated machines use some of the most precise diagnostic tools available. The initial budget for the proposed center has been set at roughly $15million dollars. This is an important investment in health care that will directly benefit Baja Sur families.

The Secretary of Health office says the new Centro Estatal de Oncología will offer cutting edge technology, including a “high energy lineal accelerator,” which, in layman terms, is a three dimensional radiation device that attacks only cancerous tissue, rather than both good and bad tissue at the same time.

This will be the first time that Baja California Sur (BCS) residents will be provided access within the state to equipment now considered to be among the best in the world. While the tumor detection and cancer treatment technology is used mostly in developed countries in their fight against the disease, Mexico is now on the list of developing countries using the high technology. Modern ultrasound, and other advanced medical equipment will be purchased for the center as well.

Brachytherapy will also become available at the new center. Brachytherapy is an effective radiation therapy used to attack cancerous tumors with astonishing precision. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, high-dose rate brachytherapy is performed by placing thin catheters in or near the tumor. The machine uses a highly radioactive pellet placed at the end of a wire. Through the use of a computer, the pellet is pushed into each one of the catheters where the release of radiation occurs for a short, precise period of time. The catheters are removed after a series of treatments, and no radioactive “seeds” remain in the body in this highly controlled process.

Some of the tumors treated with brachytherapy include: prostate, breast, lung, gynecologic, esophageal (the food pipe that runs between the throat and the stomach), skin, eye, and head and neck cancers as well as rectal tumors and sarcomas, (tumors of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscles, etc.), none of which are particularly fun tumors to have.  Brachytherapy may be one of the best tools available in the fight against the life threatening invaders.

 Many cancer sufferers in BCS, (that’s our state Bunky), have had to seek help outside the state, (or the country,) where Brachytherapy or other essential technologies are available. This, of course, implies greater expenses and the inconvenience of traveling and being separated from family. For many families already financially strained by the high costs of cancer treatment and the normal loss of income traveling far from one´s own city is extremely difficult, so the convenience of being treated within a short distance of home, and the huge reduction or elimination of travel expenses, will make a big difference.

With the arrival of the new oncology center, access to this crucial therapy will be made available to residents regardless of income, and a vastly improved tumor detection and cancer treatment system that will soon be offered to Southern Baja residents is seen as a positive development for the region.

The beauty of Brachytherapy is that treatment sessions can be reduced to less than an hour-- in some cases to only a few minutes-- compared with at least 72 hours needed for older, more conventional equipment. Thus, speed, less invasive surgery, less radiation, greater efficiency, and precision are the outstanding features of this impressive technology, and unlike chemotherapy, side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hair loss are avoided.

 This is an all-around good deal for the state. Baby boomers from the north who are considering retirement in the Baja should take notice: Baja Sur is becoming modernized with diagnostic equipment that meets the highest international standards; some of the same top-of-the-line equipment used in the U.S. and Canada. For residents concerned about having access to advanced medical technologies and comprehensive health care, the arrival of the new Centro de Oncología will welcome.