By Beatris Espericueta Sanders

As the spring season brings our community’s annual cancer fundraising events – where generous Kern County residents rally in force to help – the team at Adventist Health’s AIS Cancer Center remembers when they first rallied for a new cancer facility nearly seven years ago.

When the AIS Cancer Center was completed in December 2012, the vision focused on creating a patient-centered, world-class, comprehensive cancer center that would keep people in our community for treatment. At the time, one in five cancer patients in Kern County would leave the area for care.

In sports terms, we wanted to give Kern County cancer patients – and their families – the “home field advantage.”

“We know that people heal better and quicker when surrounded by a strong support system,” said Jenny Lavers, AIS Cancer Center operations director. “Cancer is a diagnosis that affects not only the patient receiving that news, but their loved ones, family, friends – anyone connected who wants to help, so being nearby when going through treatment, that makes a huge difference.”

Nearly seven years later, the four-story, 60,000-square-foot facility features a team of three medical oncologists, one radiation oncologist and two board-certified, fellowship-trained breast surgeons (part of an all-female breast surgery team with a diagnostic radiologist and family nurse practioner, FNP).

The AIS Cancer Center offers medical and radiation oncology, along with infusion services, breast surgery and numerous other patient-centered program resources.

The technology at the AIS Cancer Center is among the most advanced in Kern County. For example, the TrueBeam linear accelerator – the only one of its kind in our community – can target a tumor within one millimeter of accuracy, taking cancer cells while reducing damage to healthy tissue. This machine also makes radiation therapy as comfortable as possible with treatments taking only five to 15 minutes instead of 30-45 minutes.

The AIS Cancer Center’s radiation oncology clinic is accredited by the American College of Radiology. This accreditation is given only to radiation oncology providers that can prove compliance with the ACR’s high-quality standards. The AIS Cancer Center was the first to receive this distinction in Kern County.

Some additional elements that make “The AIS Cancer Center Difference” include:

• Board-certified oncologic pharmacist

• Dedicated social worker for all services

• Faith-based culture

• Multiple languages spoken by providers

• Lymphedema treatment program (to relieve excess buildup of fluid under the skin)

• Foundation-supported financial help, including costs for transportation, wigs, other support services

• Young Survival Coalition (organized by AIS Cancer Center’s FNP, herself a breast cancer survivor)

• Free Inspired Healing Program (medi-yoga, tai chi, meditation, nutrition classes, etc.)

• Tumor board to discuss complex patient cases

• Genetic counseling and research on-site

• Regularly hosting free cancer screening events

So as Kern County gathers over these next few months for the various community events that promote cancer awareness and raise money toward research and support of local cancer patients, the team at the AIS Cancer Center will continue to support – year-round – current and future cancer patients.

“We’re in the business of helping people deal with a disease that can be devastating – and we would love for that disease to become obsolete,” Lavers reflected. “But until that day, the AIS Cancer Center believes that the best way to support a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery is through combining the power of technology with caring for a person’s spirit – we see the positive effects of this combination every day. It’s why our center was built.”

Beatris Espericueta Sanders is the foundation president at Adventist Health Bakersfield

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