Hearing the words, “You have cancer,” is one of the most difficult and life-changing things a person could ever experience. Knowing what to expect is daunting at best, and the pending list of appointments, physicians, medications and side effects, not to mention navigating one’s personal life, can be overwhelming.
Community cancer centers often offer services that can’t be found at larger centers that are focused on research. Ideally, finding a center that combines a community setting with services provided by a university-level center can give patients the best all-around experience. Why? Community cancer centers often provide more of the integrative services — like support groups and nutrition and exercise classes — that larger research-focused centers may not provide.
Social workers specializing in oncology support services acknowledge that fear and anxiety often accompany a diagnosis and that there are psycho-social-spiritual-physical needs that must be met in addition to the actual treatment of chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or other medical treatment.
Community cancer centers often provide classes for support and education, partnering with oncology nurses and oncology social workers to lead support groups. Experts note that treatment of the whole person means not only talking about feelings, but discussing how the patient is feeling in relationship to the medications being used for treatment. Classes in stress management, massage, nutrition and exercise in addition to support groups all provide the integrative experience that create the best experience for patients.
Movement and exercise
Research shows a direct relationship between regular exercise and treatment outcomes. For some patients, it means getting up and moving from the bedroom to the kitchen or living room and back again. It really depends on what stage of treatment the patient is in. For patients able to participate in special exercise classes, there can be a variety of options, including strength training, walking, Tai Chi and yoga.
Take action — questions to ask your physician about cancer
If you’ve been diagnosed, educate yourself. The American Cancer Society® is a great resource for patients, as well as their families and loved ones. Their web site provides several printable pdfs such as Questions to Ask My Doctor about Cancer. For more information, visit cancer.org.