Something as simple as a window and a little sunlight may seem insignificant, but for a cancer patient undergoing radiation treatment it could be all the comfort they get.
On Monday, Piedmont Fayette's Cancer Center unveiled its new linear accelerator machine (LINAC) located in a "vault" that is one of only two treatment rooms in the county that has windows and natural lighting.
Dr. Jonathan Bender, medical director at the Piedmont Fayette Cancer Center said the goal over time has been to make treatment as comfortable for patients as possible, particularly those undergoing the sometimes debilitating effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
"We want the hospital to be an inviting, warm, comforting place for patients dealing with a very scary experience," Bender said.
Tracey Coker, vice president of clinical and support services, explained how rare the design is and where the design team found the inspiration for it. As Coker explained, vaults for radiation treatment are built "to shield the outside world from what happens in that box," with extremely thick concrete walls. Incorporating a window is a design element that was inspired by the only other vault to include one, which is at the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center in California.
Piedmont Fayette's design features floor to ceiling windows as well as a garden for patients to view as they undergo treatment. The natural lighting and the garden lend an open feeling to the room in contrast to typical treatment rooms which can feel confining to patients.
"It changes your whole opinion of what radiation oncology is," Coker said.
This LINAC machine it the hospital's second. The first machine has been in use since July 2010 and has averaged 46 radiation treatments per day with each treatment taking approximately 15 minutes.
Approximately two-thirds of the patients diagnosed with cancer are candidates for treatment with the LINAC machine.
The new machine is also an upgrade over the original, with features that make treatment safer and more comfortable for the patient. This model is operated by one doctor, whereas the other machine needed three operators.