Mayo employees Sarah Anderson and James Leenstra stand in front of the second linear accelerator now in use at the Radiation Oncology Center in Northfield. Mayo expects the second machine will allow more local residents to receive care closer to home. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

Northfielders and others from the region who are battling cancer now have a greater chance of being treated closer to home thanks to an additional machine recently installed by Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Radiation Oncology Center in Northfield, just across North Avenue from Northfield Hospital and Clinics, has added a second linear accelerator to the facility at a cost of approximately $5 million. A linear accelerator is a machine commonly used to deliver external beam radiation treatments to cancer patients.

Northfielder Caroline Jones, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, is using the accelerator during her 15 radiation treatments.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous machine,” she said. “It’s a beautiful piece of technology. There’s no doubt about that.”

“It’s just a very calm place to be, strangely enough,” she added.

Construction on the vault the accelerator is in started in November and was completed in January. After a few months of preparing the machine, it began being used for treatment April 29.

Mayo Radiation Oncologist James Leenstra said the second machine will give Mayo better precision and allow for more efficient radiation treatments, resulting in better patient care and outcomes.

The center averages approximately 25 patients per day.

To Leenstra, the addition of a second accelerator is important for all Northfielders. An estimated one in eight women will have cancer at some point, and a majority of men eventually develop prostate cancer. Approximately 80% of people diagnosed with cancer receive radiation treatment.

Fifty to 60% of patients at the Radiation Oncology Center are from the Mayo Clinic’s Rochester facility, while others are referred from other health care organizations throughout the region.

“It’s closer for patients in this area and the Twin Cities to come here than it is to drive down to Rochester daily,” Leenstra said.

“It allows us to give really good care for local people,” he added.

The installation of the accelerator comes in the midst of a busy year for the facility, which has been slowed by the onslaught of COVID-19. To combat the pandemic, health care workers are keeping chemotherapy and radiation patients separated into strict time slots so they don’t overlap.

Mayo Clinic opened the Northfield radiation treatment facility in June 2011.

Mayo Radiation Oncology in Northfield has also received Brainlab, an addition to its treatment machine. Brainlab will include a more precise, efficient mask and X-ray system to allow health care workers to be more precise in treating brain conditions

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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