person painting
person painting

The Importance Of Cancer Support Services

Posted on June 14, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Going through cancer treatment is tough on your body—and on your mind. Side effects of medication and the uncertainty of what’s to come can be a lot to grapple with, which is why cancer support services are so important. These services, which go beyond medical care, are often crucial to maintaining your wellbeing.

“Cancer support services focus on how a cancer diagnosis impacts someone’s life,” says Camille Romain, MBA, LMSW, manager of social work at Henry Ford Cancer. “How will someone still be able to go to church and sing with their choir? Or sit at their granddaughter’s graduation ceremony? We look at the whole person in pursuit of healthy minds, healthy bodies and healthy souls. We want to help maintain – and restore – someone’s emotional, physical and even financial health as they go through this process.” 

Finding The Right Cancer Support Services For You 

Every person has different needs when it comes to cancer support. Whether you are currently undergoing treatment or you’re a survivor, taking advantage of the right services can make a difference in your cancer journey. Here, Romain shares a variety of cancer support services to consider.   

1. Nutrition services. Side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea and loss of taste, can make it difficult to eat. Cancer dietitians are trained to work with the unique needs of those who have cancer. They can also help you jumpstart a nutritious eating plan after completing treatment.   

2. Exercise programs. Exercise can help lessen fatigue, which is a side effect of cancer treatment. Exercise also increases blood flow to your heart, improves flexibility and endurance, and boosts cognition, mood and immune system functioning. “In our ExCITE program, you’ll receive an individualized exercise plan,” says Romain. “Our experts know how cancer impacts the body. They can help you build strength so you can return to some normalcy.”      

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Cancer Support Services

Learn about the cancer support services offered at Henry Ford.
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3. Integrative medicine. Studies show that acupuncture can reduce mental and physical side effects of cancer treatment. (Think: nausea, pain, peripheral neuropathy, hot flashes, stress and fatigue.) Yoga can also improve flexibility and stress, and meditation has been proven to be a natural stress reliever. 

4. Psych-oncology. With psych-oncology, psychologists, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners are specialized to counsel patients who are dealing with the life-changing effects of cancer. Even when you’re a survivor, you may have anxiety of recurrence. These specialized experts can teach you coping skills to persevere. 

5. Support groups. Confiding in people who are going through similar hardships as you can be so comforting. “We have support groups for both patients and caregivers—because sometimes caregivers put their own health at risk in caring for their loved ones,” says Romain. “Whether you want to know you’re not alone, or you have questions, support groups can be hugely beneficial.” You can also check out Imerman Angels, a non-profit that connects you with someone who has had the same type of cancer as you.  

6. Financial counseling. The cost of medical treatment can be a huge stressor—which is where financial counselors come in. They look at your cancer drugs to see if you are eligible for co-pay assistance or free drug programs. “They’ll work directly with your care team to offset out-of-pocket costs of treatment, if available,” says Romain. “They can also assist you in choosing the best healthcare plan for your needs. Just ask your cancer care team for a referral.”

7. Speech language pathology. Treatment for head and neck cancer can be especially disruptive to your daily life, as it can interfere with basic tasks like breathing, speaking, chewing and swallowing. Speech language pathologists can help you manage these disturbances and help you regain these skills.   

8. Art and music therapy. Music and art therapy have been proven to help reduce pain, anxiety and depression for those going through cancer. “Art therapy is for everyone—not just artists,” says Romain. “With a certified art therapist there to guide you, you’ll draw, paint and use other forms of artistic expression to help manage the emotional and psychological side effects of cancer.” 

Romain recommends taking a personal self-inventory to help determine what you need and when – as these needs will continue to change as you go through different phases of your cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment and survivorship.

“Each diagnosis is such a personal experience and each person will require different levels of support,” she says. “Maybe you aren’t comfortable in an in-person support group but would benefit greatly from an online group. Some people may not need a whole lot of resources throughout their journey. Others need much more. It truly depends on you and your unique situation. The most important thing to know is that help is available — just ask.”

Reviewed by Camille Romain, MBA, LMSW, manager of social work at Henry Ford Cancer.

Categories : FeelWell

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