For the dozens of area residents who are currently battling cancer, or may be diagnosed in the future, there is a new, powerful weapon available to help them in the fight for their lives. And it is available close to home.

The Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center in Claremore offers cutting-edge technology in radiation therapy through the linear accelerator or linac.

“Basically, there are three methods of cancer treatment,” said Thomas Scheer, MD. “There is surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

“Surgery and radiation are used for smaller tumors, while chemotherapy has its best effect if tumors are found throughout the body.”

The Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center offers radiation therapy, with plans to add chemotherapy later.

The carefully planned treatments take place, on average, five days a week for four weeks. Scheer said each treatment takes one to two minutes with no pain or heat associated.

“The side effects relate only to the area treated,” a particularly welcome benefit, he said. Any generalized fatigue usually improves after treatment.

Scheer said the goals are straightforward: curative treatment to remove the disease; and palliative treatment to relieve pain and suffering related to the tumor.

Patients are given radiation therapy in a team approach, with their physician working closely with the certified medical dosimetrist (CMD) and therapists to plan and execute the specific treatment.

Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center includes three exam rooms that are specialized according to different areas of the body that might receive treatment. Following the consultation, the CT-simulator is used to capture images which are imported into the CMD’s office to design a treatment plan using state of the art software.

The entire plan — from beginning to end — is completed on computer before the patient ever begins the actual treatment. This allows any necessary adjustments to be made.

When the patient comes in for therapy, the linac machine is used to direct cancer-killing energy at tumors with laser-like precision.

The machine can be moved up or down, left or right and adjusted to target the specific area — large or small — to be treated.

The system is capable of delivering the most advanced Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and other radiation treatments. Better targeting of the disease results in improved tumor control and spares surrounding healthy tissue to minimize complications.

The treatment room is accessed by a door that is the equivalent of seven feet of lead to prevent radiation from escaping.

Once the proper position is calculated, the therapist exits the room to start the treatment. They are able to communicate with the patients through an intercom system and video monitors.

“The equipment we have here is as good or better than anything in Tulsa,” Scheer said.

It is not only the state of the art technology that makes Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center a viable option for area cancer patients, however. With a location close to home, cancer treatment no longer dictates daily trips to a facility in Tulsa for weeks on end.

“Many patients are trying to do this as they continue their busy lives and jobs,” said Debbie Mills, clinic administrator. “Now it doesn’t have to consume their lives or the lives of family members who have to drive them back and forth. In the time it takes to drive to Tulsa, we can get them in and treated.”

Convenient scheduling times mean treatment could be completed during the lunch hour and parking is available at the door.

Along with added convenience, Mills said, Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center patients will receive competent, capable care.

“We want to provide a compassionate, personal touch. These are our neighbors and friends,” she said.

Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 283-9900.

Contact Rebecca Hattaway,