Carolinas HealthCare System
Vol. 2 Issue 4

Focus on Cancer Survivorship

Beth York, MA, LPC

Beth York, MA, LPC
Director, Survivorship & Integrative Oncology, Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte

In 2011, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating that the number of cancer survivors increased from 3 million in 1971 to 9.8 million in 2001. Because cancers are detected earlier and treatment methods have become much more sophisticated, providers are treating patients who are living longer with cancer than ever before. Levine Cancer Institute’s new facility was designed with survivorship in mind and services for survivors—a term, according to the CDC, referring to “individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis throughout their lives”—are woven throughout the building.

A Positive Patient Experience

“The building’s design is representative of the degree of thought that’s gone into our survivorship program and integrating it into the care as part of the patient experience,” says Beth York, MA, LPC, director of Survivorship & Integrative Oncology at the Institute. “It’s not some separate destination somewhere down the road; it is part of the medical care that’s going to be delivered to the patients here.”

The Institute has a generous offering of survivorship programs, such as fertility preservation, nutrition and wellness and support, but the new facility allows for better coordination of these treatments by bringing them under one roof and using patient navigators and their cancer resource center, a venture with the American Cancer Society (ACS), operated by trained volunteers who can access the ACS database to provide patients the information and educational materials that they need.

Treating Body, Mind and Spirit

The Institute is also developing an integrative oncology program, providing patients with information about complementary medicine and connecting them to the activities and programs they choose to participate in. A grant from the LIVESTRONG Foundation has enabled “artists in residence” to provide writing and art classes.

Many hospitals have gift shops that provide cards, flowers and other accouterments for patients’ families, and some items for patients themselves, but the new building goes a step further, offering a patient image boutique that is aimed at enhancing the patients’ quality of life. Wigs, mastectomy-related supplies, aromatherapy, nutritional supplements and moisture-wicking sleepwear are all available at the boutique; and because, as York notes, the Institute needs to “extend beyond itself,” an online capacity for the boutique is being developed.

“This is an exciting program, and it will allow us to venture into an area that's not always part of a cancer center agenda,” says Levine Cancer Institute President Derek Raghavan, MD, PhD. “However, it’s important to understand that we will not only be accepting folklore, but will test hypotheses about integrative approaches using the technology of clinical trials,” Dr. Raghavan explains.

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