ASTORIA — A little over a year after its official opening, the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative is serving more people than they ever expected and helping solve the number one cause of death in the Clatsop County.

“Last October, we expected to serve 60 radiation oncology patients in the first year,” said Chris Laman, director of pharmacy and cancer care services by Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria and the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute.

“In actuality, we’ve cared for more than 160 patients and provided more than 3,500 radiation treatments. We are busier than anticipated,” he said in November.

Care closer to home

Oncologists and specialists throughout the region have begun sending their patients to the Cancer Collaborative for radiation treatment in Astoria.

“During the past three months, we have delivered radiation treatment to an average of 18 patients per month,” Laman said. “This makes the Cancer Collaborative the busiest of all of OHSU’s community radiation oncology departments.”

They are now serving more medical oncology patients than ever before. Patients who may have delayed treatment or avoided it all together are now being treated locally in minutes instead of investing hours — and sometimes entire days — traveling to Portland.

Dozens of new patients

“We now see an average of 30 new patients a month, versus 13 new patients a month two years ago,” Laman said. “By the end of 2018, I expect that the total number of medical oncology visits will have increased by more than 50 percent over 2017.”

The goal has been to give coastal residents, particularly those who used to travel to Portland for treatment, an option that doesn’t require hours of travel every day.

“What all this means is that we’re serving more patients closer to their homes,” Laman said. “This benefits our community in so many ways. Patients have a better quality of life because they spend less time and money traveling for treatment. We’re also creating new jobs. By the end of 2019, we anticipate there will be 40 people working in the center.”

Cancer in Clatsop County

Clatsop County has a higher incidence of cancer (10.3 percent) than the U.S. or Oregon (7.9 percent), according to a 2016 community health needs assessment by Columbia Memorial Hospital and Providence Seaside Hospital. Cancer is the number one cause of death in Clatsop County. The most common cancers in the county are breast, prostate, lung, colon and oral cavity. As of 2016, the death rate from these cancers was higher in Clatsop County than national averages.

“While the Cancer Collaborative will help lower the death rate from these cancers by providing treatment, it’s not enough to get us where we need to be,” Laman said.

“We are working with the Knight Cancer Network to improve screening and education about risk factors so we can connect patients to providers at earlier stages of the disease. This will allow us to achieve the better outcomes we all desire — reducing the number of deaths related to cancer in our communities.

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