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Quality Control

Suzette Walker and Susan Urba
Suzette Walker, F.N.P.-A.O.C.N.P., and Susan Urba, M.D., right, lead the Symptom Management & Supportive Care Clinic. Visit the Symptom Management & Supportive Care Clinic's web page.

New Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic helps patients improve quality of life

The Cancer Center recently launched the Symptom Management & Supportive Care Clinic to help improve patients' quality of life by addressing the sometimes debilitating side effects of cancer care. The clinic works in concert with the patients' oncologists to develop a treatment plan to address common concerns such as chronic pain, constipation, fatigue, nausea, swelling of arms or legs, anxiety and depression. The clinic also works with patients with advanced cancer who want to talk about changing the focus of their care.

The clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of experts, including a physician, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, dietitian and social workers. It also works to coordinate referrals for physical therapy, occupational therapy, pain management, the sexual health clinic, social work and integrative medicine, such as acupuncture.

"Cancer therapy can cause a number of symptoms that are often complex," said Susan Urba, M.D., director of the clinic. "Our oncologists are great at treating symptoms, but sometimes it can be helpful to collaborate with a group whose clinic and resources are dedicated to optimizing the management of these symptoms."

Medical care that addresses symptoms, rather than the disease itself, is often called palliative care. However, Urba said, palliative or supportive care is often mistaken for end-of-life care. All cancer patients, regardless of the stage of their disease, should consider supportive care to lessen the impact of symptoms and side effects.

Better symptom management may help patients get through treatment more quickly by helping the body to stay strong. It also may lead to better quality of life.

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Thrive Issue: 
Fall, 2010