Posts tagged ‘Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center’

Couples cope best with breast cancer when they cope together

February 12, 2015 | by

Even the most loving and secure relationship can be rattled by a life-threatening illness.

breast cancer

Couples Coping with Cancer Together integrates couples counseling as a standard part of breast cancer treatment.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, research shows one of the most important factors in helping her cope is having a supportive partner. But that partner can struggle with knowing what to say or how to best support their loved one.

Through research and clinical experience with breast cancer and relationships, City of Hope has found that specific skills and behaviors can help a couple grow closer despite the stress of cancer. That’s why City of Hope created the Couples Coping with Cancer Together program, which is solely funded by private donations.

“We are the only program of our kind,” said Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., a social worker in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and head of the Couples Coping with Cancer Together program. “We make this support and counseling a standard part of the care. We normalize it, and take away the stigma. Even the healthiest of couples can struggle – it’s not only couples who were already having difficulties who struggle with a cancer diagnosis.” » Continue Reading

Practical advice for couples confronting breast cancer

October 3, 2014 | by

One person receives the breast cancer diagnosis, but the cancer affects the entire family.

couple therapy

The Couples Coping with Cancer Together program focuses on good communication and problem-solving skills for couples confronting breast cancer.

Couples, in particular, can find the diagnosis and treatment challenging, especially if they have traditional male/female communication styles.

“Though every individual is unique, men and women often respond differently during times of stress,”  said Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., a social worker in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope. “This is where men and women can learn from and build upon the strengths of their partner and work together as a team. For many couples, the cancer experience can be an opportunity to grow closer to one another.”

Bitz offers these specific and practical behavior tips. They’ve emerged from the wisdom of past patients and partners, from research and from  clinical experience: » Continue Reading

4 ways that caregivers can reduce holiday stress (w/VIDEO)

December 20, 2013 | by

Providing care for someone with a serious illness can be full-time duty at any time of the year, but when compounded with holiday plans and obligations, the responsibility can be overwhelming.

“There’s such a huge expectation of merriment and joy … that a caregiver simply may not be feeling,” said Natalie Schnaitmann, L.C.S.W., director of operations at City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, in the video above.

Caregivers can be further stressed by holiday tasks such as organizing or attending social functions, buying gifts, sending cards and decorating the home.

The pressure of things to do and emotions to feel during this time of year can take their toll on caregivers’ well-being. And that negatively affects not only their health, but also the health of those for whom they’re caring,  Schnaitmann said.

To minimize the strain this holiday season, Schnaitmann offered these tips to caregivers: » Continue Reading

4 ways that cancer patients can reduce holiday stress (w/VIDEO)

December 9, 2013 | by

For many people, the holidays are a time of joy and celebration. However, for patients with cancer and other serious illnesses — and for survivors — the season can be a time of overwhelming stress.

“For a number of different reasons, [the holiday season] is stressful for a lot of people, and adding an illness or treatment to that can be a real challenge,” said Natalie Schnaitmann, L.C.S.W., director of operations at City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, in the video above.

The holidays come with the time- and energy-consuming tasks of shopping, decorating and cooking, Schnaitmann said, and cancer patients and survivors may feel pressured into trying to seem festive as well.

But this can further exacerbate stress’ impact on their lives, interfering with the healing process and leading to actual physical symptoms. These can include the inability to fall or stay asleep, physical aches and pains, and an elevated pulse or blood pressure.

Thankfully, Schnaitmann said, many tools and strategies can reduce stress — and its impact — during the holidays.  She suggested:

  1. First, gauge one’s stress level. One of the first things a patient or survivor should do is recognize when he or she is becoming stressed so that the burden of stress can be controlled. Although stress’ impact will vary among individuals, Schnaitmann said, common symptoms include trouble sleeping, unexplained aches and pains, and increased feelings of irritability, anxiety or depression.
  2. Prioritize holiday rituals. Patients and survivors should consider forgoing some of the less-important holiday traditions and events to avoid becoming overburdened. “To reduce the impact of stress during the holidays, patients and survivors should look at the holidays in a more realistic way,” Schnaitmann said.
  3. Delegate tasks. “Cancer treatment might be a full-time job for [patients] … and an incredibly important thing for them may be to share the responsibilities,” Schnaitmann said. This includes enlisting family and friends to help with holiday shopping, gift wrapping, preparing food or putting up the decorations.
  4. Take a breath. When overwhelmed with stress, Schnaitmann said, patients and survivors should take a moment for deep, slow, concentrated breathing. “What we learned from behavioral scientists is that the brain cannot be anxious if the body is calm,” Schnaitmann said.

Finally, Schnaitmann encourages patients and survivors to contact their health-care providers for support in handling holiday stress. The Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center offers a variety of resources to help patients reduce or cope with stress, including reading materials, literature, support groups and professional services.



Biller Center: 5 years of patient-centered healing (w/VIDEO)

October 4, 2013 | by

Five years ago marked the opening of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, unifying City of Hope’s supportive care programs to better serve patients and caregivers. Half a decade later, the center and the integrated Department of Supportive Care Medicine have made major strides and become a national leader in the field of supportive cancer care.

“We are so incredibly excited about the fifth anniversary of the Biller Resource Center … because it is built around what patients and family members told us they need,” said Matthew J. Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs and executive director of City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

“In five years, we have been able to transform the way patient-centered care is provided,” Loscalzo said in the video above. » Continue Reading

Cancer: Benefits of beauty, personal care go more than skin deep

August 16, 2013 | by

Looking good makes you feel better. The Positive Image CenterSM at City of Hope sees the evidence daily, with more than 5,000 visits a year from patients seeking to look their best.

Karen Butcher gets a hair cut at a pop-up salon event at City of Hope. Positive body image is an important component of patients' overall care, experts say.

Karen Butcher gets a hair cut at a pop-up salon event at City of Hope. Positive body image is an important component of patients’ overall care, experts say.

For patients, the center can be much more convenient, and less stressful, than a salon. Many find that juggling daily life and cancer therapy doesn’t leave a lot of time for a trip to the salon. Others aren’t  comfortable getting the pampering treatments that used to be relaxing. And still others are physically limited by their cancer or treatment.

At the Positive Image Center, patients learn how to minimize the cosmetic side effects of illness or medical treatment. They consult with specially trained, licensed cosmetologists who offer guidance about skin care techniques, alternatives for hair loss and much more. The setting is typically more private and soothing than a salon, where they could be surrounded by people who might not understand their condition, concerns or even their physical needs.

This week, the Positive Image Center went the extra mile by partnering with The Beauty Bus Foundation, which brings hair and beauty services – via pop-up salon –- to patients in their homes and at health care providers. During the foundation’s visit, patients received make-up applications, haircuts and manicures. It also provides packages of beauty supplies to patients nationwide.

» Continue Reading

Better screening equals better patient support

July 2, 2013 | by

When facing a cancer diagnosis, patients and their caregivers may have trouble getting the supportive care they need; in fact, they may not even be fully aware of their challenges or the resources available to them.

Thus, it is key to screen patients so that persistent issues impacting treatment – from pain and nausea to depression and anxiety to financial and transportation obstacles – can be addressed in a timely manner. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is leading the country’s health systems to do just that.


A $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute will train health professionals nationwide on various methods of patient screening, such as the SupportScreen app (screenshot shown above)

The grant will fund a series of workshops to educate health professionals nationwide on how to screen patients for treatment-related issues, led by Matthew Loscalzo, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs, and program manager Karen Clark, M.S., from City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center.

“Many cancer patients report that it can be difficult to communicate their ongoing concerns with their doctors and other members of their health care team,” Clark said. “Screening gives patients the opportunity to tell the team about any issues – physical, psychological, family, social, spiritual, financial or others – that may impact their care.” » Continue Reading

Cymbalta can help manage pain from chemotherapy, study finds

April 4, 2013 | by

Cancer patients treated with chemotherapy often experience side effects from the toxic compounds – the most common effects being nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Further, about 20 to 40 percent of patients who receive a category of chemotherapies known as neurotoxins can experience a painful condition known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

An antidepressant can help reduce pain from a side effect of chemotherapy treatment

An antidepressant can help reduce pain from a side effect of chemotherapy treatment, new research suggests.

This condition, caused by chemotherapy-induced nerve damage, can last months to years after chemotherapy treatment. Now, researchers from a national collaboration of hospitals and cancer centers have found that the antidepressant duloxetine – sold under the name Cymbalta – can ease such pain if given during the first five weeks of treatment.  Their findings were published online Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Duloxetine is already approved for use in treating diabetes-induced peripheral neuropathy. Researchers hypothesized that the drug could have a similar effect on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. The study authors reported: “Among patients with painful chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, the use of duloxetine compared with placebo for 5 weeks resulted in greater reduction in pain.”

That’s good news to Carin van Zyl, M.D., a palliative and pain specialist in City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care, who commented on the study in an interview with MedPage Today.
» Continue Reading

Palliative care should be part of basic care, experts say

March 7, 2013 | by

Doctors may specialize soon after leaving medical school, but they all possess basic clinical skills such as the ability to suture a wound or find a vein for blood draws. If two palliative care experts have their way, all physicians would have a primer on symptom relief, too.

With the demand for palliative care rising, all clinicians should be trained with basic symptom assessment and management skills, says a NEJM perspective article (photo credit: Stockbyte)

With the demand for palliative care rising, all clinicians should be trained in basic symptom assessment and management skills, says a NEJM perspective article. (Photo credit: Stockbyte)

Since being recognized as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2006, palliative care has grown rapidly in many health care systems, but this trend — paired with a mindset of using palliative medicine specialists to handle everything related to symptom management — can be problematic, according to Timothy E. Quill, M.D., and Amy P. Abernethy, M.D., president and president-elect of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

“Although it may be theoretically optimal for palliative medicine specialists to take on all palliative aspects of care, this model has negative consequences,” they write in a perspective article in the March 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. This includes an insufficient supply of providers to meet demand, especially if other physicians begin to eschew basic symptom relief and psychosocial support.

Simply put, they write: “There are nowhere near enough palliative care specialists to provide all palliative care services for every very ill patient.” » Continue Reading

City of Hope classes help smooth the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor

February 14, 2013 | by

The number of cancer survivors has been steadily increasing, due in part to increased awareness of symptoms, improved screenings and, of course, better treatments. There are now approximately 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, greater than the population of New York City.

cancer survivor

The physical battle with cancer is just the beginning of the recovery process.

But although the physical treatment eventually becomes a thing of the past, returning to a “normal” life isn’t always a cakewalk for newly minted cancer survivors. Only now are social workers, psychologists and other health-care workers turning their attention to cancer’s long-term impact. City of Hope specialists are among those leading the way.

To help survivors through the complete recovery process, the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center has partnered with Cancer Support Community and LIVESTRONG Foundation to organize a series of six weekly, interactive classes for people who have recently completed treatment.

“We have put together this program because of the questions that we have heard from new survivors,” said Linda Klein, manager of operations at the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “Many have a general fear of recurrence and want to know what they can do to stay healthy, and others may encounter communication and emotional issues after this life-changing experience.”

Additional concerns that survivors have focus on returning to work after cancer treatment, how to coordinate and manage follow-up care, and handling issues with health insurance, Klein said. » Continue Reading