BERN TWP., Pa. -

St. Joseph Medical Center in Bern Township is nearly doubling the size of its cancer center.

Hospital officials said construction started this week on the clinical care area where chemotherapy and other infusion therapies are provided.

St. Joseph's cancer program has grown significantly since it began its affiliation with Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute nearly five years ago, according to Karen Wagner, the hospital's director of oncology services.

The expansion, officials said, will help the hospital better serve patients and allow more patients to get care closer to home.

"The fact that we need to expand is an illustration of the referring physicians' belief in us," said Dr. Marc Rovito, St. Joseph's chief of oncology and a member of the Penn State Hershey School of Medicine's faculty. "We have worked hard to establish good relationships by providing comprehensive care, as well as communicating quickly and regularly on each patient's progress."

The project costs nearly $1 million. It's expected to be completed this fall.