At Providence, cancer fight is more than chemo

EVERETT – Want to get a look at one of the newest developments at Everett’s $62.4 million cancer center?

It’s about the size and weight of a small feather and on view during today’s open house.

The small, light, flexible needles used in acupuncture are just one of the alternative medicine techniques now available at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership.

Yoga, art therapy, massage, nutrition counseling and hypnosis are some of the other services available to patients on the building’s first floor.

The building also houses $10.8 million in cancer diagnostic and treatment technologies that the public can get a close look at today.

This includes the center’s most expensive piece of equipment, the $3.25 million TomoTherapy machine. This one machine can do both CT imaging and deliver extremely precise radiation treatments. Its three-dimensional imaging allows the radiation to be directed to a spot the size of a pea.

By blending more than $10 million in the latest in high-tech, cancer-blasting equipment and alternative medical therapies under one roof, Everett’s cancer center is part of a growing national trend – cancer treatment with a touch of ying and yang.

“There are some (cancer centers) where everything is in the same building, but they’re not typical,” said Dr. Cheryl Beighle, medical director for integrative medicine at the Everett cancer center.

So for patients who want these therapies, it means adding one more stop on their trips for cancer treatment.

The services available at Everett’s cancer center were chosen there because they have shown to help patients, Beighle said.

Mind-body techniques have been shown to help decrease the pain, nausea and vomiting some patients experience with chemotherapy, she said. Relaxation can even help reduce the claustrophobia some patients feel while using some of the center’s body scanning and radiation treatment equipment.

“One of the hardest things with a cancer diagnosis is all of a sudden you feel like your life is out of control,” she said.

Alternative, or what is called integrative medicine, can help patients regain control, she said.

Bill Carper, a 59-year-old Everett patient being treated for a recurrence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, is one of the first patients to receive acupuncture treatments at the cancer center.

Last year, large tumors in his back prevented him from walking for three months. He underwent 14 radiation treatments and six rounds of chemotherapy.

But he soon began battling another problem, too. Either the tumors, or scar tissue putting pressure on the nerves of his back, may have triggered restless leg syndrome, which often keeps him awake for hours each night.

“In the evening, when you want to relax, I can’t sit still,” Carper said. “My legs wake up. They bug the heck out of me. Sometimes it aches. There’s nothing consistent about it except irritating.”

Carper said he didn’t know much about acupuncture, except hearing an occasional mention of it on TV or reading about it in a newspaper.

Earlier this summer, a doctor asked if he would consider trying acupuncture to treat the problems with his legs. “I’d be willing to try anything that would help,” he said.

So on Thursday, Carper rested on a treatment bed on the cancer center’s first floor.

A small sign outside the room labels it as Wellness Room Number 2. An acupuncture meridian, or channel chart, hangs on the wall.

Even though the acupuncture device is called a needle, “this isn’t like getting a shot by any means,” said Dr. Janile Martin, a naturopathic physician and nurse practitioner, who administers Carper’s acupuncture treatment.

“They’re flexible like a hair,” she said. “When you’re at the right point and focused, it should go in like butter.”

Martin asks Carper how he’s feeling, how much energy he has, and checks his pulse. She gently inserts needles into his solar plexus, legs, ankles, hip, below his ears and in the middle of his forehead, what she calls a “very calming point.”

“It didn’t hurt a bit,” he said.

The acupuncture needles “kind of rebalance energy,” Martin explained. She said she’s treated cancer patients for pain, nausea, anxiety and depression.

Carper, who had only received one previous acupuncture treatment, said he continues to have problems sleeping but “I’d like to give it an honest try.”

Alternative therapies like those available at the cancer center are now requested by an estimated 75 percent of cancer patients.

“It’s nice to have services to complement their chemotherapy and radiation,” Beighle said. “I do think they help.”

Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

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