Federal funding boosts Walla Walla cancer center

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Funding to advance cancer treatment technology at Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center has been included in the final version of the 2010 Federal Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., supported the funding request for St. Mary. The final version of the spending bill came out of a conference committee between the Senate and the House and is expected to reach the president’s desk for his signature shortly, noted Kathleen Obenland, director of public affairs for St. Mary.

"This funding is very important to cancer patients in our region. Essentially, it will give patients access to radiation technology that provides shorter, more comfortable treatments with fewer side effects," said Steve Burdick, chief executive officer of the hospital. "Studies suggest that the higher doses provided by technology like this may increase survival rates."

The $350,000 is for services related to the Clinac iX Silhouette linear accelerator. St. Mary began using the equipment this month.

The machine combines onboard imaging with the technology of the traditional linear accelerators which hospitals have long used to treat cancer. The imaging allows delivery of higher doses of radiation to the tumor with extreme precision, and affect less of the healthy tissue around it.

The technology is particularly beneficial for treating tumors in sensitive areas such as the head and neck, where the risk of damage to healthy tissue can have significant side effects for the patient, Obenland said.

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