head in a whirl," she added. "She got me into the radiologist before the surgery, who recommended a gene test."

"That test saved me from having a lumpectomy and then later having to come back for further surgery," Mrs. Shaw explained. "That would have been devastating."

The Women's Imaging Center, with its two oncology-trained RN's as breast navigators, is a "model system" for what Dr. Anne Chiang, medical director of the hospital's Regional Cancer Center, wants to see for all patients with all cancer diagnoses.

In 2010, the cancer center handled 10,516 medical oncology and radiation treatments covering a broad range of cancers.

Among its "cutting edge" technology, the center has an Open Bore MRI, offering a less claustrophobic testing environment.

Its new 64-slice CT Scanner puts out 40 percent less radiation while providing a greater range of information.

"It's like a spa setting," said Alan Poris, lead MRI technician of the Open Bore MRI room, "wood floor, skylight image of sky and trees, music piped in off the Internet."

More Information

The Regional Cancer Center -- at a glance Survivorship plan with tailored, individualized focus; Integrative medicine: acupuncture, Reiki, therapeutic touch, etc.; Breast Cancer Center National Accreditation in January 2011; ACOS Cancer Center Accreditation in December 2008; Multidisciplinary tumor board and case conferences; Ongoing patient education programs and on-site library

The new linear accelerator is the "Ferrari of radiation equipment," Dr. Chiang said, beaming. It directs radiation so no extra tissue is affected beyond the tumor targeted, she explained.

"These are some of the things that makes the cancer center stand out," she said. "That and forward thinking offerings like the opportunity for patients to take part in clinical trials."

Since opening in 1999, the Regional Cancer Center has taken part in a multi-center, clinical trial for a colon cancer therapy that became the "staple in treating colon cancer" and of a drug that "has changed the course of breast cancer treatment," Dr. Chiang said.

For Dr. Chiang, all that is history.

What excites her is new clinical trials further aimed to extend patients' lives. Some 31 patients have entered trials since last summer.

"There's a myth that entering a patient into a clinical trial is experimenting with that patient because nothing else has worked," she said. "That couldn't be further from the truth. For every phase of treatment, we have a clinical trial to offer."

A patient from the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City was recently referred to New Milford for chemotherapy follow up.

Brenda Maxwell, 56, of Fishkill, N.Y., diagnosed with ovarian cancer, had her hysterectomy at Sloan-Kettering.

Dr. Chiang was a colleague of her surgeon.

"The (cancer) center's staff is very warm. Everybody was so kind," she said. "The Reike and massage, the warm blanket while I was having chemo -- I felt like I was the center of attention."

Dr. Chiang noted "Brenda's treatment, (putting the chemo medication) in through a port in her abdomen, is not available in most community cancer centers."

John Maxwell sat with his wife, Brenda, while she underwent chemotherapy.

John Shaw was there each step of the way with his wife, Kendra's, from the diagnosis onward.

"I don't think we could have done better anywhere else," Mr. Shaw said. "The credentials of the staff are amazing."

"When you look in the northwest corner of Connecticut there is nothing else like it," he added. "It's not an al a carte approach to treatment. Everybody's talking. Everybody's interacting with everybody else."