Miami Cancer Institute’s new Proton Therapy Center is now open. I took a media tour yesterday and it was great to see that one of the three rooms is now operational and the other two are going to be online soon. This is a first for South Florida, now patients can stay close to home while undergoing treatment instead of traveling to other treatment centers in other states.
Just a year ago, I visited while it was still being built and it’s great to see all the progress that has been made. Last year, all the big machines were in place, but it was like opening the hood of your car, it looks a lot nicer when it’s closed, at least to most people. Now that you can see the finished product, you can appreciate the amount of thought that goes into making patients feel comfortable while undergoing cancer treatment.
When you are walking into the treatment rooms, right past the glass doors, you can see a wheelchair accessible touchscreen on your right where you can control the environment of the room.
There, you have options to change the color of the ambient lights and even have several themes to choose from. Selections range from the theme control videos being projected on the walls of the hallway into the gantry room, the color of the ambient lighting and even the music playing in the background. There are several themes to choose from: ocean with dolphins swimming to vineyards, pandas and even a couple of fun themes for kids.
I think these small details make a very big difference, let’s face it, these things can be scary, you are being wheeled into a room with a giant proton canon that’s going to bombard your tumor with invisible particles. The least they can do is to make it as pleasant an experience as possible and I think they’ve done a good job at it.
Last year, I went behind the scenes and visited the giant cyclotron, the particle accelerator that powers the treatment rooms and this year, I was able to see the actual gantry that operates the proton canon from a place that only engineers and hospital personnel get to visit. It was so cool, I thought I was in the space program. As you can see in the pictures, the whole structure rotates to move the nozzle into position, when you are in the room, you just see the tip of the nozzle, behind the scenes is a giant machine that needs over 3 stories to rotate not unlike the most sophisticated launch vehicle for the space program.
The most touching part of this journey is to hear the patient’s stories, the reason this whole place was built in the first place.
Proton therapy is still in its infancy, the technology keeps improving and the costs keep going down. This is good news for cancer patients that need this specialized treatment since they now have an option in their very own backyard.