Ten years ago, when cancer patients in Southeast Louisiana were deciding where to be treated, the closest options included a commute to larger cities for visits and treatments — sometimes multiple times a week– navigating traffic and scheduling challenges. This all changed for residents of Ascension Parish and surrounding areas in 2009 when Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center expanded its mission to Ascension Parish, improving survivorship and lessening the burden of cancer for community residents.
Innovation in treatment
For the past decade, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Gonzales has made cancer care accessible to everyone in the Ascension Parish community.
The innovative technology within the Cancer Center is one reason for its many success stories. The Elekta Agility high-resolution beam-shaping device accurately focuses radiation on the cancerous area while minimizing the treatment’s impact on surrounding healthy tissues and organs. In addition, patients at high risk for lung cancer can benefit from low-dose lung screenings in Gonzales, and some breast cancer patients can be treated with the innovative breath hold technique, being coached on breathing approaches that help lessen radiation exposure to the heart and other vital organs.
“Because every diagnosis is different and unique to each patient, the most effective cancer treatments are individualized,” said Maurice King, M.D., radiation oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins in Gonzales. “We are grateful to have a network of oncologists, radiologists and specialists, medical physicists and others that allow us to offer each patient in Gonzales a customized treatment plan and provide the highest level of cancer care while letting them stay close to home where they are comfortable.”
Partnering with the community
The Cancer Center has partnered with other organizations in Ascension Parish to make a greater impact in the community. The Gonzales Area Foundation generously hosts an annual gala, raising more than $250,000 for patient care and survivorship programs. In addition, a partnership between the Cancer Center and Pennington Biomedical Research Center offers patients in the Gonzales area more opportunities than ever before to take advantage of Pennington Biomedical Center’s research as well as the Cancer Center’s more than 30 ongoing clinical trials.
Community involvement also extends to generous individuals volunteering their time, talent and resources.
Prevention and early detection
The Cancer Center continues to advocate for cancer prevention and early detection in Ascension Parish with Prevention on the Go, a program that has helped more than 1,500 residents access free cancer screenings, resulting in the detection of 12 cancers. Live Well Ascension, a now annual parish-wide screening event, has been one of the Cancer Center’s most successful programs. During the 2018 event alone, more than 205 participants were screened.
Rachel Mumphrey, survivorship coordinator, has seen the Cancer Center’s mind-body medicine survivorship programs bring together Ascension Parish cancer patients during some of their most difficult times.
“It is such a joy to see these men and women offer each other support and lend a helping hand – even in the face of their own hardship,” said Mumphrey. “Complete strangers have met, become friends, and vowed to turn their trials into triumphs. Their grace and confidence inspire us every day.”
During an average week, survivors can take part in yoga classes, walking groups, mind-body support groups and meditation classes. The Center also offers free massages to patients and survivors to help them relax or cope with pain.
Though the Cancer Center in Gonzales has made significant strides, the journey to fight cancer still presses on, and this progress can only continue with the community’s continued support. Making high-quality cancer care more accessible to Ascension Parish residents has been the Mary Bird Perkins in Gonzales’ mission since 2009 and the team will continue to move forward swiftly and aggressively, ensuring every patient receives the care and treatment he or she needs to live the best life possible.