BASS Coast Health (BCH) is expanding the range of cancer treatments it is offering the community – and patients and their family and friends are reaping the benefits.

The availability of more chemotherapy at Wonthaggi Hospital is saving patients and their loved ones the stress, fatigue, time and cost of having to travel to Melbourne and Traralgon for treatment.

A breast cancer chemotherapy was administered at Wonthaggi Hospital for the first time last month.

Patient Elaine Santurini of Kilcunda received the medication during the second cycle of her treatment, after having to travel to Monash Health at Moorabbin for her first cycle.

“The traffic in Melbourne was horrendous. It took about one-and-a-half hours to get there, so being able to come to Wonthaggi is just lovely and it’s good for my husband Eddie because he can go home and work as an engineer,” she said.

Oncologist Dr Andrew Haydon from Alfred Health has been overseeing chemotherapy at Wonthaggi Hospital every Monday since February.

He consults patients before they receive their treatment, as well as patients receiving oral treatment or requiring follow-up consultations.

Dr Haydon and his team also consult at the Phillip Island Health Hub at Cowes.

Without his attendance locally, patients would have to visit the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

“The cancer service is getting busier and we will soon have to look at coming down more than one day a week,” Dr Haydon said.

With a significant proportion of retirees among the local population, and cancer being more common among older people, there is certainly demand for cancer services locally.

Chemotherapy nurse Shannon Bedford said the diversity of treatments offered by BCH’s Integrated Cancer Unit would continue to expand.

She said each new medication has to be administered in a certain way, giving staff the opportunity to expand their skills.

“New medications also have their own side effects that we have to inform the patients about,” she said.

Patient Jacinta Searby of Wonthaggi previously travelled to The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for her breast cancer treatment.

That entailed being transported by the Royal Flying Doctor Service from Wonthaggi to The Alfred, arriving at 8.30am and not returning home until as late as 9.45pm.

On Monday, she was able to receive her fourth cycle of Paclitaxel at Wonthaggi Hospital.

“It’s a blessing to be able to come here because sometimes the travelling is worse than the treatment because of the extra hours involved,” Ms Searby said.

“We desperately needed a chemo unit here. It’s just not the patients who go through cancer, but it also affects everyone around you as well.”