Cancer treatment center opens at Queens Hospital

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The center is part of the $149 million renovation to Queens...

By Courtney Dentch

After more than three years in the making, Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica Monday officially opened its Cancer Center of Excellence, the only comprehensive cancer care center in the borough.

The center is part of the $149 million renovation to Queens Hospital Center, at 82-68 164th St. in Jamaica, and offers full-service cancer care, including prevention and early detection, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, a patient resource center and a separate pharmacy to handle only cancer medications.

Although the center opened to patients several months ago, the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in front of the new center Monday morning. Former Borough President Claire Shulman, state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and city council members Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) and David Weprin (D-Hollis), as well as Benjamin Chu, president of the Health and Hospitals Corp., which manages the city’s public hospitals, were on hand to wield the scissors.

“For the very first time, Queens County has its own coordinated and fully equipped cancer program,” said Antonio Martin, executive director of Queens Hospital Center. “Our plan is to elevate the level of cancer care by introducing a multifaceted oncology program that is designed to increase the choices of care for the people of Queens.”

The center’s goal is to give the highest-quality cancer care as comfortably and simply as possible, said Margaret Kemeny, the center’s director. That mission is carried out in every facet, from the brightly painted walls to the support community available, she said.

In the chemotherapy treatment area of the center, for example, patients can sit in reclining chairs, each equipped with televisions, while they talk to other patients or family members. Although the area is designed to encourage interaction, patients also can choose to protect their privacy with a portable curtain, Kemeny said.

The state-of-the-art equipment includes computers in the exam rooms that can call up a patient’s file and X-rays and a $2 million machine for radiation treatment, Kemeny said.

Other services available to patients are psychiatric therapy groups, a patient resource center with Internet-ready computers, videos, and literature on cancer, and a pharmacy with a pharmacist who specializes in cancer medication, Kemeny said.

In addition to its own pharmacy, the cancer center is kept completely separate from the rest of the hospital, Kemeny said.

“Patients can bypass the hospital and deal entirely with the cancer center,” she said. “They can register and check in here. We’re trying to make it as streamlined as possible. They’re going through enough problems just having cancer.”

One of the center’s main goals is to promote early detection and screening, Kemeny said. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the minority populations served by the Queens Hospital Center, Chu said. And about 33 percent of cancer in the black community is diagnosed late compared with 12 percent in the general population, Clark said.

“We’re trying to do much more in cancer screening and prevention,” Kemeny said. “That’s the thrust of this center.”

Shulman, a two-time cancer survivor and former Queens Hospital Center nurse, emphasized the importance of cancer screenings.

“I know this will save people’s lives,” she said. “Early detection is really a very, very important service we will be giving people.”

And some are hailing the new center as a reprieve from death for some Queens residents.

“This center is absolutely necessary and long overdue for the community,” Clark said. “This center will encourage people to go and get diagnosed so it can be treatable and not a death sentence.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Updated 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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