I “celebrated” breast awareness month in 2002 with starting my first day of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer having been diagnosed at age 39. At the time, I was in a full spectrum Family Medicine practice including obstetrics, inpatient hospital and outpatient care. Fast forward 18 years and I am now Chief of Integrative Oncology at Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, NC, recently ranked by US News and World reports as a top cancer hospital.
So, what have I learned that you can use to help your patients, both those recently diagnosed and long-term survivors of cancer? A common feeling is “loss of control.” How can we empower patients and care partners? I begin by seeking to understand the patient’s perspective. Common starting questions include, “tell me your story,” I’ve read the chart but want to hear the patient’s perspective and their understanding. Next I ask about nutrition, physical activity, sleep, supplement use, stressors, sexuality and their support system. Often this is the first time a patient has been asked about some of these aspects of their wellbeing.
People with cancer are bombarded with false information on the internet, someone always trying to sell them something and friends/family telling them what they should or shouldn’t do to treat their cancer. They need credible sources of information. Providing evidence informed advice on nutrition, physical activity, supplement use, environmental exposures, non-pharmacological sleep strategies, stress management skills, and management of long-term side-effects of cancer and cancer treatment is a big part of my role in Integrative Oncology.
Finishing cancer treatment can be just as terrifying or even worse than first being diagnosed; patients and care partners worry will it come back, will they know, and can they do anything to keep it from coming back?
Where do you find evidence informed resources for these topics? I recommend online education resources to help yourself, family/friends and your patients. A good resource is the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine online courses.
Be there for your patient, listen to their story, help them make changes to decrease risk of recurrence and empower them.
Chasse M. Bailey-Dorton, MD
Twitter – @chassebd
Dr. Bailey-Dorton is a guest writer for InCrowd. You can learn more about her here.