Medical tourism, like proton therapy, bringing economic impact to Jacksonville

by: Michael Yoshida Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville now has another reason to promote itself as being a destination city for those seeking medical help.

The River City is now the only one in the entire country to feature two proton therapy cancer treatment centers.
     
Action News took an up-close look at this form of treatment and the impact of medical tourism on the city.

The Ackerman Cancer Center's new Proton Therapy Machine offers treatment to patients in Jacksonville and beyond.
 
R.B. Juneau, 69, is in a fight for his life. In December, he was told he has prostate cancer.
 
“When I found out I have cancer, there were two things I had to come to terms with ... one, I have cancer and two, I'm going to beat it,” Juneau said.


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Juneau’s fight is happening at the Ackerman Cancer Center, where he's receiving proton therapy. It's an advanced form of radiation that uses molds and is able to target a precise area, reducing the damage to healthy tissues and organs.
 
“We're able to control how deep I can make that radiation beam go,” said Dr. Ryan Perkins. “It also has sharp edges on the side so I'm able to treat a really specific volume with that tumor inside.”
 
The therapy is just another reason for people to visit Jacksonville. According to tourism organization Visit Jacksonville, the estimated economic impact for medical tourism in the city is more than $23 million annually.  
 
“We're going to find that proton therapy will be the wave of the future for treating certain kinds of cancers like lung, head and neck, breast, kidney,” Dr. Perkins said.
 
As for Juneau, he and his wife of nearly 50 years are just focused on one future.
 
“We're going to fight it and beat it, and after 44 treatments I'll be cancer-free, I can assure you,” he said.
 
The Ackerman Cancer Center said it is treating people from the city of Jacksonville, surrounding states and abroad.

The Ackerman Cancer Center is the world's only private, physician-owned practice to offer this cancer treatment option. They can treat between 30 and 40 patients a day.


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