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New cancer care center opens in Merced

On Wednesday morning, a two-story crane helped bring a new cancer care center to Merced.

At the El Portal Radiation Imaging Center on N. G Street, a new linear accelerator, used for cancer radiation care, was lowered into the basement of the three-story imaging and cancer center.

“We expect to be able to start treating cancer patients in November,” said Dr. Duane Richey, one of the owners of the center.Richey and Dr. Steve Hansen, both radiologists, first opened a one-stop imaging center at the site earlier this year. The imaging facility will provide mammograms, all types of radiology, ultrasound, and positrom emission tomography, or PET scans. PET scans are used to find cancer, especially cancer that has spread from one area of the body to another.

Richey and Hansen built the 35,000 square foot center so that patients in Merced could have all of their imaging done in one place.And adding a cancer center to that facility will help even more, Richey said.

“We will have imaging, a blood draw station, and we have a pharmacy right next door,” he said. “It’s for our patients’ convenience. When you have a sick relative, it’s tough getting them and out of a car in four different places.”

A radiation oncologist, Dr. Alireza Mahmoudieh, has joined the cancer center and will be in charge of radiation cancer care.

Mahmoudieh came from a Kaiser hospital in Roseville, where he was the director of brachytherapy, which is using radioactive material to target tumors. Mahmoudieh said he did more than 1,000 cases of the highly-specialized procedures at the hospital.Mahmoudieh decided to come to Merced when he heard that there would be a one-stop cancer center for patients. “We will be able to provide the latest technology to the community, under one roof.”

Both Richey and Mahmoudieh said that up to 70 percent of cancer patients in the area go out of town for their cancer care.“When a patient gets radiation, they need to go every day,” said Mahmoudieh. “Going back and forth is hard on them.”

Mahmoudieh said that he will begin seeing patients on November 3, and treatment for those patients will begin on November 17.Richey said that by December or January, a medical oncologist will be practicing at the center. That will allow local patients to get chemotherapy at the facility.

Having imaging and cancer care in one place will help with the turnaround of reports and lab results, Richey said.

“Patients really like the speed,” Richey said. “If you have a lung nodule, you don’t want to wait two weeks for a report. This way, you don’t have to.”

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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