New hope — that’s what cancer patients will have with the completion of the Southwest Oklahoma Regional Cancer Center.

“It’s a day for celebration for all,” said Duncan Regional Hospital CEO and President Scott Street of the culmination of “over eight years of work.”

Amid a light sprinkling of rain Tuesday morning and with a host of city, county and state lawmakers, business representatives, health care providers and cancer survivors, DRH broke ground on the first of three such facilities to be built.

Similar groundbreakings were to follow in Lawton just before noon and in Altus at 2 p.m.

Three hospitals located in those towns have partnered to build their own facilities that will offer local treatment for patients. Physicians based in Lawton will initially provide the care at each location for an indefinite period.

And it was the benefit of that local and area treatment that was repeatedly hailed by the morning’s speakers.

Following the presentations, Street said the ability to treat patients near their home and with the latest technology available was the driving motivation for the day’s milestone.

“Having the center to provide the service to this community so that people don’t have to travel is very important. We know that many people, because of distance and time or because they may not be strong enough to travel, just don’t get the care they need.”

Dr. Mike Crutcher, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Health, echoed that, praising the expansion of care during his remarks on behalf of Gov. Brad Henry.

“This will help increase the availability of care.”

He called the joint effort a “great example of dedicated hard-working Oklahomans” coming together to meet a “daunting challenge” in the “complexity and difficulty of providing quality health care to all Americans.”

Street noted it was “an unprecedented collaboration for three non-profit hospitals working together, doing the right thing for the right reasons.

“Providing advanced cancer care with enhanced state-of-the-art technology and a team approach will help eliminate so much of the travel” worries for those needing this service. The latest in equipment is a critical factor for cancer patients, said Street.

“The accelerator that we will have here in Duncan will be one of the most advanced in the country.”

Dr. Mittie Dragosljvich, a radiation oncologist in Lawton who is one of the support team for cancer patients in this region, elaborated on just what the new equipment will do.

“The new image-guided radiation matches the dimensions of the tumor and its position in the body.”

This allows the doctor to “make daily adjustments, providing a higher dose of radiation targeted to a specific area, minimizing potential side effects.”

He noted the facilities will have the latest information software that will aid patients and their physicians.

“This project is about keeping the patient first,” he concluded, summing up the feeling of the speakers. Just moments before 9:30 a.m., those major donors present for the event, Dave LeNorman, CEO of Crusander Energy; Tom McCasland; Marilyn McEnroe; and Carol Troy, director for corporate communications for Chesapeake Energy, with a backdrop of hospital and board officials, turned the first spade of dirt.

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