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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Winter 1997, Vol.17, No.1
Irving Cancer Center: A Comprehensive Approach to Cancer Care

T wo gifts--one for construction and renovation, the other for research and teaching--will transform the Columbia-Presbyterian Cancer Center into the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. "By the year 2005, cancer will be the major cause of death in the United States unless something is done now to change that trend. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center will be at the forefront of preventing, diagnosing, treating, and researching cancer," says Dr. Karen Antman, director of the center, professor of medicine, and chief of medical oncology. The new center is one of only two such facilities in New York City. The gifts, from long-time benefactor Herbert Irving, are for $12 million and $10 million.

The first floor renovated in the new Herbert
Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is dedicated to the
prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

Work has begun on renovations to the cancer center in the Dana Atchley Pavilion. The 10th floor, dedicated to the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, has been remodeled to emphasize efficiency, easy access to diagnosis and treatment facilities, ease of communication among specialists, and patient comfort and privacy. The details of the renovations range from major--housing the facilities for mammograms, needle aspirations, radiation therapy, genetic counseling, nutrition counseling, and psychiatry on one floor--to the minor--a special, non-public area for patients waiting for a mammogram.

By putting everything needed for the disease on one floor, patients get faster diagnosis, treatment, and counseling, says Dr. Antman. "If a woman's mammogram comes up positive, we can do a needle aspiration the same day so she doesn't have to chew her nails for weeks, waiting for an appointment and worrying."

Other details of the renovations are equally considerate of patients: A back hallway, screened from public view, allows patients to move from one treatment area to the next or to talk privately to receptionists about billing or appointments. The entire floor is decorated with serene pictures of nature. The colors used in the pictures, as well as the colors of the rugs and the walls, are carefully chosen so they don't match any drugs used for chemotherapy. Just the colors of chemotherapy medications can trigger nausea in some patients.

Overall, the newly decorated areas are designed to be soothing but not depressing. "When I first arrived here, this was the most depressing place in the world," says Dr. Antman. "These changes didn't cost that much, but they are enormously important."

Other renovations involve opening the center to the world: The scattered, single windows that some areas now have will be replaced by large windows that offer a panoramic view in waiting areas and outpatient chemotherapy rooms.

Still other renovations will have more of a medical purpose: Specially designed rooms for patients undergoing bone marrow transplants coupled with high dose chemotherapy will have special filters and air handling systems, designed to keep germs from reaching the patients.

So far, only the 10th floor is finished; in the end, floors 7 through 12 will be remodeled and redecorated. Other floors will house cancer care for pediatrics (seventh floor); medicine, surgery, gynecology, and surgical oncology (eighth floor); chemotherapy center (ninth floor); prostate (11th floor); and gastrointestinal (12th floor).

In addition to these physical changes, the donation will affect research and teaching about cancer. The $10 million will fund professorships and support an entire floor of the second building in the Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park. In addition, the cancer center will seek to work more closely with the School of Public Health to improve epidemiology and cancer control methods, says Dr. Antman.

Because cancer is becoming more prevalent, today's physicians--even if they're not cancer specialists--need to know about cancer, says Dr. Antman. "The ideal way to do this is to incorporate patient care and teaching. For instance, students need to learn about a variety of tumors, and they should also have experience working with patients with a variety of cancers. Because of the depth of the new Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, we will be able to provide those experiences."

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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