Reba Mason, Sun Health Foundation

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Sun Health Foundation supports new oncology services in Sun City

Reba Mason rarely lets life get her down.  But the long drive between her home in Surprise and the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert where she’s being treated for breast cancer is an exception.

The 120-mile round-trip trek, on top of her cancer treatments, thoroughly drains the petite Texan who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  The cancer has been a relentless foe and Mason is anticipating her fourth round of radiation therapy later this year.  One round of radiation alone typically means treatments five days a week for a month.

That’s why Mason was thrilled that Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is opening a radiation oncology center on the Banner Boswell Medical Center campus in Sun City, just seven miles away.

“I hate to say it’s going to be so nice and easy,” Mason says with a laugh.  “But I’m so excited to go from 120 miles to 14 miles round-trip.”

Sun Health Foundation (SHF), philanthropic partner of Banner Boswell and Banner Del E. Webb medical centers, helped support the new radiation oncology center, which represents an expanded area of focus for the organization: cancer care.

SHF already has a wide-ranging health and wellness mission, and this latest move helps bring vital oncology services closer to home, says Michael Mandell, immediate past chair of SHF’s board of trustees.

“This will mean that hundreds of patients and families who have to go to the East Valley for radiation therapy no longer have to make that drive,” he says.

Mandell, a prostate cancer survivor, knows firsthand about the hour-plus commute.  He underwent surgery earlier this year at Banner MD Anderson in Gilbert and also had follow-up treatments in the East Valley.

Sun Health president and CEO Ron Guziak views the new service as a watershed moment in SHF’s nearly 50-year history of providing superior health care to West Valley residents.

“Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center’s presence on this side of town is a milestone for our organization, Banner Boswell and the larger community,” Guziak says.

The Banner Boswell-based radiation oncology program that began treating patients in September is integrated with Banner MD Anderson’s Cancer Center in Gilbert, as well as the world-renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  Patients from the new radiation oncology program have access to subspecialty experts, as well as many programs and services offered by the comprehensive centers.

The program adds another layer of cancer care and prevention services to the Northwest Valley.  Other services include a program close to Masons’ heart, Hologic 3-D mammography available at Banner Del E. Webb and Banner Lakes Imaging Center.  Read “Screen Saver” to learn more about Reba’s efforts to make these services available to everyone.

Banner’s 3-D mammogram services improve detection, increase patient comfort

Women needing mammograms may now utilize the Hologic 3-D mammography unit at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center’s Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and the Banner Lakes Imaging Center.

Images from these 3-D units have been found to identify 40 percent more invasive cancers than 2-D alone.  The mammography system improves radiologists’ ability to view asymmetric densities, distortions and smaller masses, resulting in earlier diagnosis.

The 3-D mammogram experience is noticeably different for patients.  The X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple images in seconds.  The patient is more comfortable and the process is shorter than with a traditional 2-D mammogram.  The 3-D mammography system has also been shown to improve diagnostic accuracy.  To serve women who are uninsured or under-insured, the Banner facilities work with the Pink Roadhouse Mammo Fund to provide 3-D mammograms through community donations.

Reba Mason, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, launched the nonprofit Reba’s Vision and the fund last year.  Working with Sun Health Foundation, she has since raised more than $38,000 with the help of individuals, businesses and community organizations in the West Valley.  Mason also makes unique hats and necklaces to bring in donations, speaks at cancer awareness events and creates “hope baskets” for others battling cancer.

“I’m getting calls almost every day from women who need help,” Mason says.

Debra Archer, 60, in one of them.  She was uninsured when her physician ordered a mammogram and got connected with Banner Lakes imaging Center and the fund.  Her 3-D mammogram, sponsored through community donations, came back clean.

“I had seen information about the fund, but hadn’t paid it much attention,” says Archer.  “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!”

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