A new center providing leading-edge integrated care to cancer patients and their families launched today at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, offering such services as art therapy and QiGong, one-on-one and group counseling and advice on nutritional, spiritual and complementary approaches to healing.
Formerly the Ted Mann Family Resource Center, the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology is designed to help patients and family members optimize wellness and assist them in dealing with challenges during and after their cancer treatment.
“Cancer affects the mind, the body, the soul and the emotions. At our new center, we are committed to treating the whole person, not just the disease,” said Anne Coscarelli, a psychologist and the center’s founding director. “A cancer diagnosis should not be faced alone. Everyone needs information, guidance and support during treatment, recovery or recurrence.”
Most patients, Coscarelli said, want to feel as well as they can despite the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis. Patients also often want to combine modalities and need the most accurate information available about nutrition, supplements, mind/body approaches and psychological concerns.
Dr. Mary Hardy, the center’s medical director, advises patients on nutrition and dietary supplements and can suggest complementary therapies such as massage and acupuncture. She evaluates each patient individually and tailors her advice based on their lifestyle, treatment regimen and emotional and physical condition.
“When patients develop cancer, everyone offers advice. They often get overwhelmed and confused and that’s stressful,” Hardy said. “I’m here to be a reliable, authoritative source of information about the staggeringly broad array of dietary supplements and alternative therapies available today.”
Prior to seeing Hardy, patients fill out an extensive, seven-page questionnaire that covers everything from their lifestyle, stress levels, food supplements and family medical history to their sleeping habits. Hardy reviews the questionnaires and the patients’ medical records prior to seeing them. In visits that last between 75 and 90 minutes, Hardy offers advice on how to get through treatment and prevent cancer recurrence.
That’s exactly what Robert Flutie was seeking when he showed up at the Simms/Mann center after his diagnosis of Stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December. Once there, he had private therapy sessions with a counselor who was a lymphoma survivor and could relate to what he was going through. Before he started chemotherapy, he met with Hardy, who gave him nutritional advice and suggested vitamins and supplements that would help restore cellular energy, guard against infection by helping his weakened immune system recover and protect Flutie against chemotherapy-induced cardiac damage.
“The people and resources at the center are extraordinarily helpful and invaluable,” said Flutie, 45, a father of three from Pacific Palisades who is president of FLUTIE Entertainment, a Beverly Hills-based talent and brand management firm. “The center serves as a bridge that takes a patient from the lonely, frightening world of cancer treatment to the comforting embrace of a community rich with compassion, knowledge, information and caring.”
Flutie said the center helped make what might have been a miserable experience into one that was much better than he ever expected.
Spring Verity, 69, also of Pacific Palisades, agrees. Just two months after she lost her husband to esophageal cancer, Verity was diagnosed in September 2004 with both breast and ovarian cancers. Although normally a very private person not inclined to seek assistance, Verity realized this was something she could not deal with on her own.
"I knew I needed help,” she said, and she sought it at the Simms/Mann center.
She met with a counselor, who insisted she join a support group for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Verity resisted, unwilling to share her fear and acute sadness. The counselor encouraged her and, finally, Verity agreed. It was the best decision she ever made.
“I absolutely would not have gotten through this experience if not for the people at the center,” Verity said. “I was terrified of chemo and didn’t know what to expect, but the women in the group helped to prepare me. The group also was a safe place to cry. Family and friends want to help, but letting out your emotions in front of them can be difficult. The group offered unconditional support and love and it was immensely comforting to be there.”
After she finished therapy, Verity joined “Looking Ahead,” a group for women who had completed treatment and had no signs of disease. Although the group disbanded after it had run its course, the women still meet once a month at each other’s homes to keep in touch.
“The Simms/Mann center was there when I needed it, and I will be forever grateful for that,” she said.
The center also offers a psychiatry program with a part-time faculty member from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, who sees patients to evaluate their need for medications. Additionally, beginning in July of 2009, a spiritual support program will provide a chaplain and interns trained in oncology to offer holistic spiritual care to patients and families of all faiths, as well as those without religious affiliation.
Patient support groups available at the center include:
- Women Together- For women being treated for early stage breast cancer
- DCIS - For women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ
- Living Beyond Limits - For patients diagnosed with recurrent or metastatic disease
- Looking Ahead - For people finished with treatment who have no evidence of disease
- Healing Through Art - To help patients explore and express through art the issues associated with cancer
- Look Good, Feel Better - To help manage physical changes associated with cancer therapy
Support groups and workshops for patients and their family members include:
- Mind/Body Approaches to Coping with Cancer – Teaches patients and their partners or adult family members techniques to help manage stress
- Lung Cancer Support Group - Open to patients with lung cancer and their partners/caregivers
- Meditation: Inner Healing - Employs guided imagery, music, color, and movement to optimize emotional, physical and spiritual well-being
- QiGong - Practice of the ancient Chinese art to restore health and prolong life
- Couples Together - For patients and their partners to explore the experience of cancer, what it means and how it affects their relationships
Groups for family members and friends of cancer patients include:
- Husbands (Partners) of Women With Cancer - For men/women who live with women diagnosed with cancer to help them support their partners and take care of themselves
- Family and Friends - For friends and family members of individuals with cancer
- Grief Work - For men and women who have experienced a recent loss of an adult family member to cancer
The center also offers Insights into Cancer, monthly lectures for cancer patients. Topics range from traditional Western medicine to complementary approaches, mind-body healing and other coping techniques. Some of the topics that have been covered include the emotions and the immune system, cancer vaccines, environmental exposures and cancer, spirituality and cancer and novel treatments. Additionally, the center runs Reflections, a consultation suite and boutique that offers resources, information and products to help manage the physical changes brought about by cancers and their treatments. For more information, visit the center's website.
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2008, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for nine consecutive years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu.