East Alabama Medical Center’s E.L. Spencer Jr. and Ruth Priester Spencer Cancer Center is open, and patients can expect to receive a plethora of amenities from the $39.7 million facility.
“I think you are going to be really impressed with what you see,” EAMC public relations and marketing director John Atkinson said during a recent tour prior to the center's opening. “It’s roughly four times as large as our (former) facility, and we are just so blessed to have it.”
The Spencer Cancer Center, located on 2501 Village Professional Drive in Opelika, opened June 17. It is comprised of more than 59,000 square feet of space, housing two floors designated for radiation and medical oncology.
Designed as the radiation oncology section of the cancer center, the first floor is equipped with a high-dose radiation (HDR) machine, linear accelerator vaults, positron emission and computed tomography (PET/CT) machine, a nursing clinic and conference rooms.
“We have several classrooms throughout this floor,” said Christopher Clark, EAMC vice president of clinical services. “We do case conferences where the radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, pathologist, surgeons and radiologist discuss different patients under treatment. That will be done on-site. We do case presentations every two weeks. It’s allows them to set a plan for the patients.”
EAMC radiation oncology director John Faircloth supervises operations on the first floor and advanced technologies such as the HDR and PET/CT machines.
“Our HDR room has a high-dose radiation after loader,” Faircloth said. “It’s for internal treatments. The applicators for the implants will be done in here. Once the patient has them put in, we’ll send them to CT to have the imaging done there, do the planning outside, take the patient back in and there will be a machine right here that has a radioactive source inside of it, connecting the applicators to treat the patient.”
The HDR room walls are two-feet thick, and the walls of the linear accelerator vaults have more than eight feet of concrete to protect the physicians and medical staff from increased levels of radiation.
“This is our linear accelerator, and on the ceiling, we have something a little different done,” Faircloth said. “This is an image from the Hubble Telescope of a galaxy, and I believe this is the one that was taken on the 25th anniversary of the telescope. We want the patient to have a little bit of a better experience when they are looking up at the ceiling while they are laying there with all kinds of things running through their mind.”
The linear accelerators and the PET/CT machine have cameras with the ability to detect the respiratory cycles of the patients. The machines will power down if a patient’s tumor moves away from the area receiving treatment, Faircloth said.
Utilized for medical oncology practices, the second floor houses the infusion center, containing 28 temperature-controlled chairs in five bays, an infusion center extension for hematology patients and a waiting, registration room area streamlined by electronic kiosks to submit personal details quickly before receiving treatment, Clark said.
“When patients come in, we have kiosks right here, so they are able to check in themselves,” he said. “They will get appointment reminders on their phone. They will actually be able to check in on their phone and do a lot of their self-registration up front to minimize the amount of wait time they have in the facility.”
Clark emphasized the in-house pharmacy as an integral feature on the second floor of the cancer center, discarding the process of driving to a pharmacy to fill a prescription.
“Think of this as kind of like a CVS or Walgreens,” Clark said. “Patients come in, see the physician during the day and they are given a prescription to go home with. They can actually come into the pharmacy in the facility on the way out, pick up their prescription and come home, so it doesn’t require them to call in a prescription and drive over to a pharmacy.”
The second floor has a chapel adorned with a decorative structure of solid rock, an interactive touchscreen displaying information of donors who contributed to the center’s creation and a boutique equipped with fitting rooms, wigs and accessories, all which are other highlights within the center, Clark said.