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Expanding Cancer Care in Pierre

Feb 23, 2018 02:23PM ● By Med Magazine

This Fall, Avera will open The Helmsley Center, home to its sixth cancer institute, between Avera St. Mary’s Hospital and Avera Medical Group in Pierre. This $30 million dollar ACI will be an especially welcome addition to central South Dakota, which currently lacks easy access to a hospital that provides radiation treatment, even though cancer is the leading cause of death in five out of eight of Avera St. Mary’s primary service counties.

“At least a third to a half of cancer patients need radiation therapy at some point during their cancer journey,” says Sreekanth Donepudi MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Avera St. Mary’s. Right now, those patients are travelling 150 miles or more to access treatment that they cannot get in Pierre.

“It is difficult to tell patients that they have to go somewhere else for six to eight weeks of treatment,” says Donepudi. “Some women choose mastectomy over breast conserving surgery so that they don’t have to have radiation.”

While the new Elekta Linear Accelerator is still a few months away, the hospital is not waiting to advance cancer care in Pierre. Avera St. Mary’s has provided 3D mammography for more than a year and this past fall added contrast enhanced digital mammography (CEDM). CEDM uses a contrast agent in combination with mammography to make cancers that are not visible on standard mammograms show up as enhancing areas.

“This gives us even better information compared to a mammogram and can really help us determine who needs a biopsy and who doesn’t,” says Dr. Donepudi.

In addition, Donepudi says the hospital has standardized diagnostic protocols for several cancers  to ensure that patients across the Avera system receive the same standard of care. That includes low-does CT scans for the detection of early lung cancer in high risk patients.

“Even though we are a small place, we are very integrated with our main hospital in Sioux Falls,” says Dr. Donepudi, who regularly participates in tumor boards with Avera colleagues in Sioux Falls. “Pretty much every patients I see here has a genomic consultation with the genomic team in Sioux Falls.” The integration means that cancer patients in Pierre can receive the genetic counseling they need without having to travel long distances.

Although chemotherapy is already available in Pierre in the hospital’s former ICU, The Helmsley Center will improve the experience by offering it in a dedicated area.

The Helmsley Center at a Glance:

●        $30 million project

●        Expanded med oncology, diagnostics, infusion therapy, surgical oncology, and ongoing support

●        State-of-the-art Elekta Linear Accelerator

●        Pilot site for radiation-oncology telemedicine services

●        Cafeteria, cafe, and meditation room

●        Clinic space for orthopedics, dermatology, ENT, and urology

●        Opens Fall 2018

Web Exclusive: See an interactive presentation on The Helmsley Center

Want to see more? View the gallery of architectural drawings.