New center to feature advanced cancer treatment 

St. Mary’s Medical Center is poised to break ground this week on a $22 million cancer center in The City.

Construction of the new 14,000-square-foot facility is slated to begin Wednesday next to the main hospital at Hayes and Stanyan streets, and it’s scheduled to open by April 2011. The center will offer hundreds of patients who currently have to leave the facility for treatment the opportunity to utilize a one-stop shop from diagnosis, education, treatment and recovery.

Cancer accounts for one in every four deaths and is the second-leading cause of death nationwide. 

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you have three or four or more doctors — a pathologist, a doctor who does the diagnosis, then there’s the oncologist. You may have a surgeon. All of the sudden, right there, you have four physicians,” said Margine Sako, the hospital foundation’s executive director. “When you talk about having a cancer center, all of those will then have an ability to refer patients in-house.”

The facility will be equipped with new technology that allows patients to treat specific organs with chemotherapy rather than their entire body. Chemotherapy is often given after surgery to rid small groups of toxic cancer cells that may remain and slow tumor growth by infusing drugs into the bloodstream, but the new technology allows the infected organ to be targeted, Sako said.

And cutting-edge machinery at the cancer center and vascular suite will give new life to the radiology treatment unit that closed about a decade ago.

“This equipment is computerized. As you breathe, the tumor’s moving so the cancer area moves, but with our new equipment, we will be able to modulate that,” Sako said. “It will be state of the art and can measure the depth and the shape of tumors.”

The linear accelerator — the radiology equipment that directs high-energy X-rays to the patient’s tumor to destroy abnormal cells — was partially paid for with a $470,000 federal grant secured by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

About $5 million was raised by the hospital’s foundation and the rest of the $22 million is being paid for by Catholic Healthcare West, which manages more than 40 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona.

The new facility will create seven new jobs and consolidate 10 others.

“We’re a community hospital. We’ve been here for more than 150 years, and we feel that we have a solid place in San Francisco health care,” Sako said.

Future cancer-care facility

St. Mary’s Medical Center: 636,000 square feet

Year founded: 1857

Year it moved to 450 Stanyan St.: 1906

Number of employees: 1,200

Number of outpatients annually: 133,000

Number of inpatients: 7,000

Cancer center: 14,000 square feet

Number of employees: 10

Number of physicians one cancer patient has: 3 to 7

Other equipment: Vascular suite, mammogram equipment

Source: St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation

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