A cancer journey is often a long and winding road, with uncertainty at every turn. That’s where Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Patient Support Services come in — to guide patients on their journey and ensure they have all the support they need as they navigate the road to survivorship.
“Comprehensive cancer care at Scripps MD Anderson doesn’t just come from the doctors,” says Thomas Buchholz, MD, medical director at Scripps MD Anderson and a radiation oncologist at Scripps Clinic. “It’s the whole host of supportive services, including patient navigators, genetic counselors, integrated medicine specialists and more, who can help with mind/body/spirit, nutrition, social work and so much more.”
“We want you to be assured that we’re going to be with you to support you through the entire continuum of care, from diagnosis through treatment and onto your survivorship pathway,” Dr. Buchholz says.
At Scripps MD Anderson, treating the whole patient means targeting the cancer, but also addressing symptom management, nutritional health, financial health, emotional and spiritual well-being, cancer’s impact on family, marriage and relationships, and advanced planning and quality-of-life goals.
“Our multidisciplinary approach has many layers of caregivers,” explains Mary Collins, director at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Just as a patient is more than just his or her symptoms, our approach must be more than just treating cancer.”
The layers of support offered to patients include:
Physician-led teams include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and pain and sleep specialists.
Clinical support teams are made up of certified specialists in a wide variety of fields. Each member of the team serves a valuable role in the patient’s treatment and recovery.
- Nurse navigators
- Genetic counselors
- Registered dietitians
- Social workers
- Quality-of-life or palliative care team
- Pharmacy educators
- Physical and occupational therapists certified in lymphedema therapy
- Integrative medicine practitioners
Integrative medicine specialists blend the best of Western medicine with evidence-based complementary therapies to treat disease, promote healing and improve health.
“Navigators help guide patients through their early stages of diagnosis, book important imaging studies and lab appointments, and offer recommendations to other support services,” Collins explains.
Registered dietitians help patients prepare for surgery and maintain proper weight and nutrition to handle chemotherapy side effects.
Social workers provide emotional support and assist with family counseling needs and other resources that address obstacles to care.
Additional resources include:
- Wig banks that provide free wigs and wig fittings for patients who have lost their hair
- Pharmacy education to help patients understand their treatment and medication side effects
- Benefits counselors to help patients and families understand health insurance coverage
- Support groups to provide education, compassion, and companionship for patients and their family members throughout the cancer journey and beyond.