Community cancer centers: advanced care near home

Dr. Phillip Gray
Dr. Phillip Gray

Dr. Phillip Gray

By Phillip Gray, M.D.
Hallmark Health Center for Radiation Oncology in Stoneham, Mass.

Those of us who live in Boston can consider ourselves lucky that we’re located near some of the best research hospitals in the world. Clinical trials and doctors with the expertise to treat patients with rare cancers are right here.

But if you live in a community outside the city, getting cancer care in downtown Boston can be exhausting. You have to plan your day around the time it takes to get downtown and back, which often means arranging childcare or taking time off work. And if radiation therapy is part of your cancer treatment, you might need to make daily trips for weeks at a time.

I find many people overlook the option to receive cancer care at a community cancer center. That may be due to misconceptions about the level of care that can be provided. While large research hospitals certainly play an important role, most cancer treatment actually takes place at community cancer centers near home.

What can a community cancer center offer me?

I’m a radiation oncologist, and my biggest priority when I joined Hallmark Health was making sure I could offer excellent care to my patients. I did my medical internship and residency training at several large research hospitals in downtown Boston with access to the best radiation therapy technology available. After completing my training I worked on staff at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t leave that behind when I decided to move out to the community.

When I saw the exact same radiation therapy technologies at the Hallmark Health Cancer Center that I had used in my training and early career, I knew I’d be able to provide top-notch treatment without sacrificing the great quality of care I was used to providing.

Receiving care at a convenient location is especially beneficial for patients who are actively receiving radiation therapy. While we’ve improved how we deliver radiation, the process still takes a toll on the body and requires a lot of rest. But it can be hard to find time to rest when it takes an hour to drive one way from your community to downtown Boston.

It’s not just convenience. Community cancer care can also reduce health care costs for patients. I’m excited that Hallmark is in the process of affiliating with Wellforce, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital that ties together academic medicine and high-quality community care in a low-cost solution. These types of partnerships can help reduce your medical bills. You’ll also save by avoiding direct and indirect travel costs such as gas, parking, and time off work.

Community cancer centers can also offer a more intimate treatment experience. It’s a very different environment from the hustle and bustle of a large hospital. It’s easier for me to build relationships with my patients in the close, personal setting of a community cancer center.

Is community cancer care right for me?

Our community cancer center can do everything that the research hospitals can when it comes to treatment for common cancers such as breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers. We have the exact same capability to perform top-notch radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, and our oncologists have the expertise to carry out those treatments.

However, there are cases in which a research hospital may be able to better care for you. This includes patients who have complex or rare forms of cancer or may be candidates for a clinical trial. Our community cancer center refers patients to these hospitals when it better fits their needs. We’ll work with you to make sure you get the best care – whether it’s here in your neighborhood or in downtown Boston.

You can schedule a cancer consultation by contacting the Hallmark Health Cancer Center at (781) 224-5800 or email cancercenter@hallmarkhealth.org.

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