Cancer center provides local treatment option for Williston area

Members of the public tour the new Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Williston, N.D., which features a linear accelerator for radiation treatments. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Residents of northwest North Dakota will now have access to the latest advancements in cancer treatments in Williston.

Mercy Medical Center celebrated the grand opening of the Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center Monday, a $7 million center that features a highly specialized linear accelerator for radiation treatments.

The equipment, which is able to increase the precision of radiation therapy while reducing side effects and patient treatment time, is typically found at larger hospitals, said Mercy Medical Center CEO Matt Grimshaw.

“I don’t think there’s another hospital in America our size that has a cancer center like this,” Grimshaw said.

The center serves a 100-mile radius, including patients from northeast Montana. If Williston didn’t have a cancer center, patients would have to drive to Bismarck, Minot, Great Falls, Mont., or Billings, Mont., Grimshaw said.

For patients who need chemotherapy or radiation treatments several times a week, driving two hours each way for an appointment would put their lives on hold, he said.

“We are about as geographically isolated as anybody in America,” Grimshaw said.

The Leonard P. Nelson Cancer Center opened in the mid-1990s in the lower level of Mercy Medical Center. In 2009, the community began fundraising to expand the center and upgrade the technology.

The entire project was funded with donations, including a $4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust that was made possible due to the large amount of local support, Grimshaw said.

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