The Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre has celebrated its 10th birthday on the back of treating more than 10,000 patients. And in that time there have been more than 200,000 visits by people for treatments, appointments and visits to the outpatient clinics. The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District's director of radiation therapy, Anthony Arnold, said there was little doubt the centre had saved lives. "What we do know is that access to treatment and care close to home is a key driver in a patient's decision to have treatment full stop," Mr Arnold said. "This place is a beacon in the fight against cancer, and it is improving cancer patient outcomes for the Shoalhaven and South Coast." That included taking a huge amount of traffic off the Princes Highway, as people no longer needed to travel to Wollongong for treatment. Mr Arnold said just for radiation oncology visits, that amounted to 12.8 million kilometres of travel saved. He said saving the people the time and effort of travelling to Wollongong for treatment was a driving force behind efforts to get a linear accelerator in Nowra. That kicked off in 2004 when the head of Wollongong University's Shoalhaven campus, Dr Ray Cleary, had to take his wife Zita to Wollongong for regular treatments. He spoke with Paul Dean about the need for treatment options in Nowra, with the then Shoalhaven Mayor Greg Watson and a range of community organisations getting behind the cause. By 2009 the community had raised $1.8 million, prompting then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to travel to Nowra to announce $34 million in funding for Nowra's cancer care centre. Mr Arnold paid tribute to those who worked so hard to raise that amount of money, and developed strong partnerships within the community. "We wouldn't have been successful without their contribution and their effort over the years," he said. READ MORE: Paul Dean headed the fundraising committee, saying the community fundraising not only prompted action from the federal government, but it contributed more than $1 million towards the centre's accommodation lodge and about $800,000 to help pay for a second linear accelerator. Mr Dean said the community's fundraising efforts "made a material difference when Kevin Rudd came down and in the decision making to give Shoalhaven a cancer care centre". The numbers attending the cancer centre were "far beyond what we thought they would be," Mr Dean said, and he attributed that to the number of women who had previously opted out of treatment because of the inconvenience of having to travel to Wollongong. "It's an enormously successful centre, with its success well beyond our imagination," Mr Dean said. Mr Arnold said the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre had also played a role in cancer research and clinical trials.