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Nanaimo cancer centre construction to begin next year

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Construction workers are poised to start building a BC Cancer centre in Nanaimo in 2025 – bringing access to critical treatment services closer to home for thousands of people on Vancouver Island.

Nearly one year after announcing the $289-million health-care facility, B.C.’s NDP government says a business plan has been approved.

“Typically on a project of this size, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, that takes 18-24 months. It’s been completed in 11, which demonstrates I think the priority we have here,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The three-storey centre is being built at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital next to the ambulatory care building. The province says the procurement process is underway.

“It will house a CT simulator, a PET/CT diagnostic scanner and an oncology ambulatory care unit with 12 exam rooms, four consult rooms, and space for medical physicists and radiation therapists,” says Dix.

The building is expected to open its doors to patients in 2028.

A Nanaimo men’s health advocate, who brings care packages to other men sharing a cancer diagnosis, says bringing treatment closer to home is a big deal.

“I know I have to travel for treatment and I’ve accepted that,” says Don Helgeson.

He’s recently been diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer. He’s begun treatment in Nanaimo but says travel is required for certain scans and radiation, which adds to a challenging time.

“So what I’ve been told is that I’ve been onboarded to travel to Bellingham, Wash., for my radiation treatments,” says Helgeson. “There’s a possibility that I could have side effects as a result of radiation, so would you rather be in a hotel room in a strange city or would you rather be in your own house where your friends and family are – and you’re surrounded by all your own things?”

In the first year of operation at the new clinic, 20,000 radiation treatments are anticipated for roughly 1,600 patients.

“With increasing rates of cancer, the rapidly growing and aging population in Nanaimo and surrounding communities, we know there’s great need for more cancer services in this part of our province,” says BC Cancer’s chief operating officer Tracy Irwin.

According to statistics released by the province, one in two people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in B.C.

“Cancer can take so much from you. And you and your family need all of the love and support you can get,” says Joanne Falvai.

The criminology professor and mother of three temporarily relocated her family to Victoria when she went through cancer treatment following a diagnosis in November 2020.

“I’m grateful to our government for answering this call. And while I’m super excited about a cancer centre in Nanaimo, I hope to never see the inside of those radiation machines again.” 

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