A NEW £25million radiotherapy centre will allow hundreds more cancer patients to receive vital treatment closer to home.
Plans are underway to create a state-of-the-art radiotherapy facility for Scotland's Central Belt to ease pressure on Glasgow's Beatson Centre.
Last week the Evening Times revealed how health experts had warned that the world-renowned centre is operating at "unsustainable" levels.
Up to 840 extra patients a week could undergo radiotherapy in the new facility which would focus on the treatment of lung, breast, prostate and bowel cancers.
Two potential locations have already been identified for the new facility: Monklands District General Hospital in Airdrie and Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.
NHS Boards in the area support the initial plans for the new centre, which would be equipped with the most advanced technology to deliver the same world-class radiotherapy treatment and techniques currently provided at the Beatson.
These would be delivered by new linear accelerators which deliver high-energy radiation to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells.
The very latest techniques, including intensity modulated radiotherapy which uses 3-D images to deliver precise doses of radiation on the tumour whilst sparing healthy tissue, would also be used to provide customised treatment programmes tailored to the needs of individual patients.
Dr David Dunlop, clinical director of the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, said: "As more people are living longer and more cancers being detected at an earlier stage, the number of patients requiring radiotherapy is set to increase significantly across the West of Scotland in the future.
"The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre is already the busiest radiotherapy centre in the UK and is currently operating at close to its maximum capacity.
"We therefore need to create a new satellite facility to keep pace with future increases in demand for this important cancer treatment.
"This would not only increase capacity and help reduce waiting times but also allow many patients to access diagnostic and cancer treatment services not previously available locally."
Work is now underway to explore and assess these options in more detail taking into account a wide range of factors such as travel times, catchment population and building requirements.
Once a preferred location has been identified a more detailed plan will be developed and considered by the Scottish Government.
If approved, construction could start in spring 2014 and the facility, which is expected to cost around £25m, could be operational by the end of 2015.