Avera Medical Minute: Benefits of quality cancer care close to home

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 10:31 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A cancer diagnosis can be a scary time in anyone’s life, and treatment for cancer can be a long journey for many cancer patients.

Doctors say having the ability to undergo treatment closer to home can make a big difference in a patient’s recovery.

That’s why the health system provides skilled oncologists, doctors, and clinicians across their footprint, giving patients in more rural areas the same access to treatment as those in bigger cities.

“Cancer is a scary word when you first hear it, it kind of sets you back on your heels,” said Jerry Thomsen, an Avera patient.

For Thomsen, his diagnosis came after a persistent sore throat.

“It was kind of interesting because I didn’t have a ton of symptoms, even though it was ultimately diagnosed as stage 4. But the only symptom that I really had was some lumps on the side of my throat and I noticed I was having some difficulty swallowing my pills. So between the lump and the pill, I decided it was time to go see a doctor.”

He sought treatment in his hometown of Mitchell.

“What really impressed myself and my wife when we started looking at our options, was with Avera, we felt like we could have access to the whole network of doctors. That included doctors in Sioux Falls, Yankton, wherever the best doctor may have been. So we were able to take advantage of the best of the best to get a diagnosis and a treatment protocol so that was attractive to us. But what really helped was the ability to come back to Mitchell to do the treatment and not have to travel and be close to family and friends,” said Thomsen.

The treatment and care he found in Mitchell paralleled what he would have received in a larger city, but with added benefits: he got to stay closer to home.

His doctor says that can actually help in a patient’s treatment and recovery.

“The benefits are multifaceted. Number one, from a psychosocial standpoint, it is much easier on patients to be treated close to home and knowing that the treatment that they are getting and the physicians that they are getting are the same they would be getting in the more urban areas like Sioux Falls,” said Dr. Houman Nourkeyhani, a medical oncologist with Avera Medical Group.

“Keeping patients close to home is something I see as a more holistic way of approaching their treatment so that they are able to get through their treatment more successfully.” Dr. Nourkeyhani is one of many medical oncologists who travel to areas like Mitchell to give patients top-of-the-line care and a personalized treatment plan.

Thomsen underwent rigorous treatment for his cancer.

“We coordinated care for him, and he was able to have radiation here 5 days a week, and he also got chemotherapy,” said Kristin Bietz DNP, with Avera Cancer Institute Mitchell.

The staff at Avera say Thomsen’s positive outlook and the fact that he was close to home and his support system, contributed a lot to the success of his recovery.

“To be honest, I’ve recovered much quicker than I expected,” Thomsen said. “Cancer is not a death sentence, it’s treatable. And you just kind of got to keep your faith and keep your attitude and do what you need to do and get treated.”

For more information about cancer treatment and the Avera footprint, visit

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