Older adults have numerous strengths, including knowledge and experience, that can assist them in coping with a cancer diagnosis. Simultaneously, they may face unique challenges that affect their ability to make health care decisions and receive quality care.
Today, older adults find themselves in an increasingly complex medical system where they are expected to take an active role in managing their care when they may be unable to do so. Access to medical information through technology may prove confusing and cause patients to refrain from asking key questions about their care or feel unsure about where to access important and accurate health information.
It is essential that older adults and their loved ones be able to openly and honestly discuss their care with their doctors and any potential difficulties that may arise. CancerCare has valuable tips for communicating with your health care team.
Many older patients struggle with changes related to aging and becoming more dependent on others. As oncology health professionals, we are in the unique position to provide care and support. To learn more, please call 800-813-HOPE (4673).
Our guest blogger Sarah Kelly, LSCW is coordinator for Older Adult Services at CancerCare
Did you know that palliative care helps people at any age and any stage of cancer? Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing you with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness like cancer.
The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both you and your family. You can receive it along with your curative treatment. The palliative care team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists will work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.
To get palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral. CancerCare has resources to help you learn more about palliative care and you can also visit Get Palliative Care for additional information.
The field of oncology is constantly redefining treatment approaches and options to improve the standard of care for people everywhere. In a field that is rapidly making innovative advances, we are fortunate to stay aware of new discoveries in oncology through modern technology.
February is National Cancer Prevention Month, the perfect time to recognize how developments in oncology, coupled with technology, have impacted the lives of people living with cancer, caregivers and health professionals. A person’s geographic location or financial situation are no longer barriers. Mobile apps and health-focused websites allow instant access to topics such as cancer screenings, research updates and risk factors.
A prime example is simply picking up the telephone and joining one of CancerCare’s Connect Education Workshops™. Whether participants listen to a live or archived Connect Education Workshop™, they will hear compassionate experts in oncology provide the latest medical advances from the convenience of their own home or office. Thecomprehensiveeducationalworkshops have evolved with technology to include a webcast component, accessible online via podcast, and telephone replay.
CancerCare’s easy-to-read fact sheets and educational booklets, written by experts, can be ordered online, over the phone or viewed on our website. Like all of CancerCare’s services, our workshops, fact sheets and booklets are free of charge.
In recognition of National Cancer Prevention Month, we encourage you to visit CancerCare’s workshop and publication webpages for up-to-date information from leading experts in oncology. The first and foremost step to cancer prevention is knowledge.
Guest blogger Sarah Quinlan is the Senior Education Technical and Marketing Coordinator at CancerCare.
The report documents how the current health care system fails to adequately address patients’ needs, leading to poorer outcomes and quality of life. It also provides recommendations in six areas for improving patient care:
Engaging patients to make more informed choices about their care
Having an adequately staffed, trained and coordinated workforce
Providing evidence-based care
Learning health care information technology (IT)
Translating evidence into clinical practice, quality measurement and performance improvement
Offering accessible and affordable care
This breakthrough report reaffirms IOM’s recommendation that health care professionals address patients’ “psychosocial” (practical, financial and emotional) concerns, along with medical needs, in order to provide the most comprehensive care.
CancerCare has long been looked to as the leading organization advocating the importance of psychosocial cancer care, and was instrumental in crafting recommendations for the IOM’s landmark 2007 report, “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs.”
The findings from that report, as well as from this most recent report, illustrate the crucial importance of providing care addressing patients’ myriad needs. CancerCare applauds the IOM for continuing to advocate for comprehensive patient care going beyond simply treating the disease.
Amy J. Berman, Senior Program Officer at the Hartford Foundation and celebrated health care blogger, provides a clear and concise rundown of the report on the Hartford Foundation’s blog, Health AGEenda. Amy also provided testimony, served as a reviewer for the report, and is included in the accompanying IOM video clip, which you can watch below.
Talking to your doctor can be difficult, but the relationship you have with your health care team can make a big difference in how well you cope with cancer. Research shows that people who have good communication with their health care team are much more satisfied with their medical care than those who do not. They also tend to better cope with emotional stress and symptoms such as treatment side effects and pain.
Here are some tips for communicating with your health care team:
Prepare a list of questions. Write down your questions and concerns about your illness and treatment before your next medical appointment. This way, you won’t forget to ask about something that was important to you.
Write down your doctor’s answers. Taking notes will help you remember your doctor’s responses, advice and instructions. If you have a mobile device, you can also use it to take notes so that you can easily review the information at a later time.
Bring someone with you to your appointments. The person who accompanies you can serve as a second set of ears. He or she may also be able to think of additional questions to ask your doctor or remember details that you may have forgotten.
Ask for a contact. Important questions may come up between appointments. Find out whether there is someone you can talk to if you have an important issue or emergency. If your doctor is unavailable, is there someone else such as a nurse or social worker you can call?
The more you feel you can openly discuss any matters of concern to you, the better you are likely to feel about your care over the long term. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions—always seek the care you need and deserve.
Learn more about communicating with your health care team.
Today’s guest blog was written by William Goeren, MSW, LCSW-R, Director of Clinical Services at CancerCare.
CancerCare oncology social worker Richard “Rick” Dickens, LCSW-R, shares his story of coping with cancer in a new segment airing on CNN’s “Human Factor.” The program, which profiles extraordinary individuals who have overcome challenging odds, is narrated by CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Rick first came to CancerCare as a client after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and participated in a support group for young adults coping with cancer. Interacting with other support group members helped Rick realize he wasn’t alone in his journey. The group gave him emotional support as well as valuable insight into his diagnosis and life after treatment.
Rick joined the staff of CancerCare as a professional oncology social worker in 1997, moderating the support group he had previously attended. As CancerCare’s Mind/Body Project Coordinator, Rick incorporates practices such as visualization and meditation into his counseling to help people cope with difficult emotions and find a sense of peace.
Tanning beds have been long understood to be a major risk factor in developing melanoma. Yetmany people across the U.S., especially teens and young adults, continue to use tanning salons regularly, despite laws in 36 states that restrict their use among minors, according to an article in today’s New York Times. In fact, people who start using tanning beds before age 30 are 75% more likely to develop melanoma, which is among the most common cancers for women under 30.
Melanoma is a risk even for those who abstain from tanning beds. Jonah E. of Brooklyn, NY came to CancerCare for help after being diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 28. He met with an oncology social worker for free counseling, and learned ways to cope with his anxiety and fears. Today, he is better able to manage the emotional challenges of his diagnosis.
CancerCare’s Melanoma Helpline is staffed by professional oncology social workers and provides reliable information, emotional support, and helpful resources to people facing melanoma. Call the Melanoma Helpline at 877-MRF-6460 (877-673-6460).
A new study found that manypatients coping with cancer reported better managing their cancer-related pain after receiving emotional and/or practical support. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, also found that education about pain management helped patients learn to better control their pain.
Pain is a symptom of cancer and its treatments that can—and should—be controlled. CancerCare’s professional oncology social workers work with people coping with cancer to develop strategies for managing cancer-related pain. It is important for patients to discuss any pain they are experiencing with their health care team, which can include doctors, nurses, social workers, or pain specialists.
For many caregivers, supporting a loved one going through cancer is a full-time job. Along with providing emotional support, caregivers may be charged with administering treatment or helping to manage side effects. Often, caregivers do all this at the expense of their own health and well-being.
CancerCare CEO Helen H. Miller, LCSW writes about theimportance of supporting caregivers of people with cancer in the latest issue of Oncology Nurse Advisor. The article provides tips on how oncology nurses can help caregivers of people with cancer receive emotional and practical support.