Chemotherapy, or chemo, is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Considered a systemic therapy, chemotherapy circulates through the body in the bloodstream and works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. Chemotherapy is administered in several ways, including injection (shot), intraperitoneal (IP), intravenous (IV), topical (cream), or oral (pills, capsules or liquids).
The chemotherapy infusion center at Mercy Regional Medical Center is located in the medical oncology clinic, Southwest Oncology, and modeled with patient comfort in mind. During chemotherapy treatment, patients have access to comfortable, reclining chairs in a quiet, spacious setting. Oncology nurses are certified in oncology nursing to ensure our patients receive the highest quality of care. The oncology pharmacist reviews all chemotherapy on-site in the oncology pharmacy (adjacent to the infusion center) to assure accurate dosage based on renal and liver function and other medical indications.
Chemotherapy can harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth, intestines, or cause your hair to grow, which may cause side effects. While side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over, side effect management is an important part of receiving chemotherapy drugs, and our trained, skilled staff is here to assist you along the way.
Mercy Regional Medical Center provides diagnostic services through advanced technologies for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We offer a broad spectrum of imaging services, including computed tomography (CT scan), positron emission tomography (PET), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and more.
The skilled staff of Mercy’s Diagnostic Imaging Department is specially trained with extensive, hands-on experience. In fact, on average, more than 54,000 diagnostic imaging procedures are performed at Mercy Regional Medical Center every year. Our staff members are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and are required to have 24 continuing education units every two years. The knowledge, skill and experience of our staff helps ensure that they capture the best possible images for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. All diagnostic images are read by board-certified radiologists, who are physicians with an advanced education in the specialty of radiology and have completed a multidisciplinary fellowship.
Mercy Regional Medical Center has partnered with Penrose Cancer Center to provide patients access to genetic counseling services through two-way, live audio/video conferencing, or telemedicine. Patients can schedule appointments with Penrose Cancer Center’s genetic counselors, which take place at Mercy Family Medicine’s Three Springs and Horse Gulch locations in Durango. During the virtual meeting, a medical assistant sits down with the patient in the clinic room, initiates the video counseling session, and introduces the patient. In Colorado Springs, a Penrose Cancer Center genetic counselor logs on simultaneously and meets with the patient as if it were an in-person appointment.
Genetic Counseling Services include:
- Recording a detailed family history;
- Using family history information to estimate the risk of developing cancer, and estimate the risk of an inherited cancer;
- Reviewing the pros and cons of genetic testing and helping patients decide if testing is appropriate;
- Coordinating genetic testing;
- Considering ways to screen for and prevent cancer based on risks; and
- Exploring implications to family members.
Note: Genetic counseling services require a referral from a medical provider.
Genetic counseling is made possible through Mercy Regional Medical Center and Penrose Cancer Center parent company, Centura Health, whose goal is to involve genetic counselors at other hospitals in the network to reach additional outlying communities.
Laboratory Services at Mercy Regional Medical Center provide timely, accurate and cost effective testing services to health care providers and patients in the Four Corners region. Our laboratory staff is committed to meeting the complex needs and high standards of the region's health care providers, as well as individual patients. Our clients' needs are always foremost to us, and we continually strive to improve the manner in which our services are delivered.
Our Laboratory performs more than 300,000 procedures per year, providing a full-range of specialized laboratory testing services, in areas such as anatomical pathology, chemistry, coagulation, hematology, hematopathology, microbiology, oncologic pathology, transfusion services, and urinalysis.
The oncology nurse navigator is an oncology-certified, registered nurse who supports patients and their families throughout treatment of cancer. The nurse navigator is available to coordinate appointments, providing information about your diagnosis and treatment options, answering questions, and connect you with any resources you may need.
Nutrition is an integral part of cancer treatment. Good nutrition practices can help cancer patients maintain weight and the body’s nutrition stores, which offer relief from nutrition impact symptoms and improving quality of life. Our registered dietician understands that the nutritional needs of cancer patients can differ from those of other individuals, and offer patients access to one-on-one nutrition sessions. Patients learn how to maintain proper nutrition at the start of cancer treatment and how to cope when experiencing treatment side effects.
Mercy Regional Medical Center’s Medical Oncology Satellite Pharmacy, adjacent to the chemotherapy infusion center in Southwest Oncology, offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer patients. Input from the clinical pharmacist is essential in the management of chemotherapy and its side effects, and the on-site location allows for effective communication, efficiency of services, and a continuity of care provided to oncology patients.
Through the support of the clinical pharmacy department, Mercy’s oncology pharmacist is dedicated to serving as a resource for drug and supplement information, as well as education for the patient, family, nurses and physicians. The pharmacist specializes in pain management and ensures the optimum effectiveness of drug therapy through proper dosing and administration, as well as anticipating potential side effects.
The Medical Oncology Satellite Pharmacy was made possible by the support of Mercy Health Foundation.
Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
A board certified pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Southwest Oncology provides care for pediatric patients.
Services include the evaluation and treatment of:
- Anemia, including IV iron therapy
- Bleeding disorders, such as Von Willebrand disease, ITP, and hemophilia
- Familial clotting disorders
In collaboration with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Southwest Oncology provides care for childhood malignancies, including leukemia, solid tumors, and brain tumors. Telemedicine appointments with Children’s Hospital are available at Southwest Oncology, in addition to long term follow up for pediatric cancer survivors.
Mercy’s radiation oncology clinic, Durango Cancer Center, is a leader in cancer treatment and radiation therapy in southwest Colorado. Through state-of-the-art technologies, high-energy radiation is used to shrink tumors and damage the DNA (the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next) of cancer cells so they cannot reproduce. Radiation therapy can either damage DNA directly or create charged particles (free radicals) within the cells that can in turn damage the DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and eliminated by the body’s natural processes.
Types of radiation used for cancer treatment, which is contingent on many factors, include x-rays, gamma rays and charged particles.
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS), and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) are painless, non-surgical procedures used to treat benign and malignant tumors in or near the brain (SRS), and in the body, including lungs, liver, abdomen and spine (SBRT).
- External Beam Radiation Therapy directs radiation at the tumor from outside the body, most often in the form of photon beans (x-ray or gamma rays).
- Intensely Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a common type of EBRT, distributes precise radiation doses to malignant tumors or specific areas within the tumor.
- Internal Radiation Therapy, or Brachytherapy, delivers radiation by placing radiation source(s) inside or next to the area requiring treatment. There are various forms of brachytherapy, including interstitial (within tumor tissue, such as prostate tumor), intracavitary (within surgical cavity or body cavity, such as chest cavity), and episcleral (used to treat melanoma in the eye). Brachytherapy can be given as a low-dose-rate (LDR, or continuous radiation for period of several days) or high-dose-rate (HDR, or radiation delivered inside body in one or more treatments).
- Systemic Radiation Therapy delivers radiation by radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, which travels in the blood to kill cancer cells. Radioactive iodine is a type of systemic radiation therapy commonly used to help treat some types of thyroid cancer.
About half of all cancer patients receive some type of radiation therapy during the course of their treatment, often in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, or biological therapy. Radiation can also damage healthy cells that are in the path of the targeted cancer cells, which is taken into account when planning a course of radiation therapy.
For some types of cancer, surgery is often the most effective way to eliminate cancer from your body. Surgeons at Mercy Regional Medical Center are highly trained to provide a wide breadth of surgical services performed in our state-of-the-art surgical unit. There are various types of surgical oncology, including preventative, diagnostic or staging, debulking, palliative, supportive, and restorative (reconstructive) surgeries.
Surgeons at Mercy are the only resource in the Four Corners region to offer minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System. Currently, robotic-assisted surgery is only available at Mercy for certain urologic surgical procedures. With our specially trained urologic surgeons at the controls, the da Vinci allows for greater operative precision, smaller incisions for minimal scarring, and faster return to everyday activities.
Trilogy Linear Accelerator
Mercy Regional Medical Center provides leading-edge radiation therapy to cancer patients with the state-of-the-art Trilogy linear accelerator, made by Varian Medical Systems. The linear accelerator delivers high-energy radiation beams to tumors and lesions in the body. Durango Cancer Center is the only location in southwest Colorado to provide radiation therapies using the Trilogy system.
With the device, radiation oncologists can perform stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). SRS is a painless, non-surgical procedure used to treat benign and malignant tumors in or near the brain. Similarly, SBRT is a non-surgical radiation therapy that painlessly treats tumors in areas of the body such as the lungs, liver, abdomen, and spine.
- Improved Treatment Times: The Trilogy delivers radiation doses at faster rates, which allows treatment times to be reduced by as much as 80 percent, and in some cases, resulting in fewer treatment sessions.
- Visual Imaging: With robust imaging capabilities, the Trilogy’s three-dimensional image-guidance system allows doctors to use cone-beam CT scans to map and target the exact coordinates of a tumor’s location. Highly accurate targeting and delivery of radiation reduces the risk of damage to healthy tissue surrounding a tumor, and may be used before radiation treatments or during a procedure—in real time—to ensure radiation beam accuracy.
- Precision: The Trilogy’s radiation beam is delivered from a gantry that rotates around the patient, who remains perfectly still on a table. In the course of a treatment session, the unit’s rotating gantry can sequentially deliver multiple radiation beams from various angles. Radiation beams can be shaped to conform to unique tumor shapes, and also may be manipulated to avoid damaging other body structures. The Trilogy’s motion management system allows radiation delivery to be synchronized with tumor motion caused by a patient’s breathing.
Support from Mercy Health Foundation
The Durango Cancer Center’s Trilogy system was acquired through a lease-to-purchase arrangement with the help of Mercy Health Foundation. Leasing the Trilogy unit allowed the technology to be available to patients in the region immediately, while Mercy Health Foundation raises funds to purchase the equipment and other enhancements to cancer care, ensuring the benefit of these services to cancer patients for years to come. For more information, visit Mercy Health Foundation.