KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As part of the National Football League's "Crucial Catch" initiative to highlight cancer awareness and cancer screening, the Kansas City Chiefs will host their Crucial Catch game Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Kickoff on KSHB 41 is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs are teaming up with the University of Kansas Health System to bring attention to a timely and important health topic.
"The Crucial Catch game is going to emphasize the importance of cancer screening for several cancers. Prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, for example. And this is a really important issue because due to COVID, cancer screening was way down last year and we need to get the word out to the community to catch up on cancer screening because if patients don't go through screening, then we catch the cancers late and they're not curable. So this is really important for us to be able to partner with the Chiefs to get a word on this issue," said Dr. Ronald Chen, the Chair of Radiation Oncology at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Chen and his team have been busy the last few months, as the cancer center's new Proton Therapy Center is in the final stages of construction.
It's scheduled to open this Spring and will bring a game-changing cancer treatment option to the region.
"The reason proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation is that it has the ability to treat the tumor and minimize radiation to surrounding organs which is really a big deal because one of our goals is to cure patients, but the other goal is to try to protect them from harms of treatment. So proton therapy, being able to reduce those to other organs protect a patient and reduce side effects is a big deal," Chen explained.
Proton therapy is not widely available.
"Bringing proton therapy to the Kansas City region is huge. This is a major project. There's only 38 proton treatment centers in the whole country. Most states do not have proton therapy and in this Midwest region, multiple states around us do not have proton therapy," Chen explained.
The new facility will provide much-needed care for cancer patients in the Midwest.
"So what's happening currently is that patients who need this treatment have to travel several hundred miles to other states to be able to receive this treatment and, for the majority of patients, that just not financially possible. So to be able to bring that here in Kansas City, we can serve our patients, they can stay here for the best treatment they can get anywhere in the country," Chen said.
The cancer center was in the Sunday Night Football spirit earlier this week, welcoming Chiefs offensive lineman Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to the Proton Therapy Center for a hard-hat construction tour.
The SI Sportsman of the Year, honored for his work on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, was actively engaged in learning more about the facility.
"It's incredible to meet Dr. Tardif and talk to him about his experience last year and talk to him about this latest treatment that we're bringing here to Kansas City. With his medical background, he asked really in-depth questions, some of which I could not answer myself," Chen said. "It's actually very exciting to not only meet a Chiefs player but to be able to talk about science and medicine to somebody who actually understands in-depth what this is all about."