TRAVERSE CITY — Cancer care in northern Michigan will soon have a new home.
A crowd of patients, donors and Munson Medical Center staff gathered at the site of the future Cowell Family Cancer Center Thursday to celebrate construction of a facility that will provide cancer care for the 1,500 area patients diagnosed annually.
“Our level of care and treatment will rise dramatically, patients and their families will get enhanced coordination and support and more of it will take place here at home rather than in another region of our state,” said Casey Cowell, who donated $5 million to the project. “This is a significant achievement on the path of keeping our area great.”
More than $17 million was raised so far for the $45 million center.
The center will open in spring, 2016, and bring all of Munson’s cancer treatment together. Patients will go to the center for doctor visits, treatment planning, financial help, dietary advice, counseling and more.
“It’s not going to be a place with just physical offices and equipment,” said Derk Pronger, Munson vice president of operations. “The mental anxiety people go through with cancer is every bit as important to treat as the cancer itself.”
Pronger said having a place focused on cancer care will help specialists collaborate on treatment plans, which should mean patients wait less to see those plans.
Cancer specialists already meet to discuss treatments for breast and lung cancer patients, and that will expand to liver and other cancers in the future.
Munson will also work closer with the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which Pronger said will help patients transition between specialists in Traverse City and Ann Arbor.
“We’re changing the way care is provided in our region. I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “This is why people leave Traverse City to seek care, because we haven’t been able to provide this in the past. We’re seeing patients’ reactions to this and it’s totally positive.”