New Cancer Van Coming to the Wiregrass

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It will be the first of its kind here in Alabama; a state of the art medical van that will soon be traveling across some 16 wiregrass counties, to help in the battle against cancer.

The new van will actually be traveling to the rural parts of the wiregrass, offering people the opportunity to get screened for all kinds of cancer, in the hopes of catching it in.

Dr. Steve Stokes, a cancer specialist with the Southeast Alabama Medical Center says, "The absolutely worst situation is when you wait until you have advanced breast cancer or advanced prostate cancer, because many times your chance for a cure is gone... it's been lost."

But doctors here in the Wiregrass are hoping to change that, using a medical van like this one.

The new van will be a cancer screening mobile unit, doctors will use to help people who otherwise wouldn't think twice about going to a hospital to get screened.

"This is a van that will have a mammography unit... it will have laboratory space, and allow us to go into these rural areas so that we can do screen mammography’s for breast cancer," said Stokes.

According to medical experts, breast cancer and prostate cancer are the two most common kinds of cancer in Alabama... but with the new van doctors say they will be able to get the cure rate for these cancers up to 90 percent.

Dr. Stokes says, "If we can go out into the rural areas and make early detections, that will give us a two to three year head start in diagnosing these cancers instead of waiting until they become symptomatic."

The van will cost approximately $800,000; $300,000 will come from federal funds, and $500,000 will be matched by the Southeast Alabama Medical Center.

But despite the cost, doctors say no one will be turned away, if they don't have the money to pay for their cancer screening.

Dr. Stokes says the medical center will receive a $100,000 grant from the Avon cosmetic company to cover the costs of women who can't afford a cancer screening.

But they do stress that no one, male or female, will be denied a screening, once the new van gets put to use.

The van is still under construction, and officials with the southeast Alabama medical center say they hope to have it completed and fully operational by April of next year.