ASM: Helmsley Center doctors see their first patient

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The Helmsley Center has been open for the past couple of months in Pierre, and already people in Central South Dakota see a difference.

One of the first patients already has a headstart on her treatments. Loretta Kunsman, a radiation oncology patient, has already noticed the impact on her life, being able to be close to home.

"So, last week was the first time I did the radiation on Wednesday, so it's been a week," she said.

For the second time, Loretta is fighting another form of cancer. This time she is thankful to be only minutes away from the hospital.

"It is nice, and when I had breast cancer I'd do stuff in Rapid City, my radiation," she said. "But, then I'd go to Sioux Falls to see a doctor there every month or whatever for six years or whatever. It's nice to be in Pierre."

Doctor Daniel Tackett, an Avera Medical Group radiation oncologist, and Loretta have known each other for more than 20 years. Back then she had to travel to receive treatments for the early stages of breast cancer. This time is a little different.

"She developed a tumor in the parotid gland that was removed with the margins of removal weren't felt to be satisfactory," Dr. Tackett said. "And so, now we're using radiation therapy to try to articulate any cells that were left behind. 16:07:06 "We're using a special technique called IMRT technique which allows us to deliver high doses to a confined area and to protect the surrounding structures in a very good fashion."

Dr. Tackett says many patients who are treated for cancer have several options for treatments, but to have a service like radiation therapy close to home helps patients like Loretta keep a support system close at hand.

"She was pulled away from her workplace and other support systems, and it was a real hardship for her to do that," Dr. Tackett said. "Now, she lives here in town, it is a short drive for her to come in for daily treatments and this has worked well for her, it'll work for patients in the area who otherwise have to travel anywhere from two and a half to five hours to get treatment at other facilities."

"You don't have to go and leave the family and everything else," Kunsman said. "My husband and the kids came here doing their thing, and I was going there craziness. It's nice to be here in Pierre."

For doctors at Avera St. Mary's Helmsley Center, remaining busy means they are helping fill a need in Central South Dakota.

"It's a wonderful thing that the community has come together to build this facility that the Helmsley Trust was supportive and there are people in the community that have helped bring it about," Dr. Tackett said.

As of right now, the center has six patients receiving treatment and within the next month expect to see more people coming in to receive care.

For more information, you can visit avera.org.