Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Spring 2003

Our Focus is on You
Strength for Caring: Support for Cancer Caregivers
Finding the Strength to Live Again
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Our Focus is on You

You've been diagnosed with cancer. Does that mean life should now completely revolve around medication and medical treatment? Not according to the Palliative Care Team at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital.With the only program of this kind in Philadelphia, the Karnell Cancer Center's doctors, nurses and caregivers from all walks of life are combining forces to not only offer you the best possible medical treatment but also help you attain the best possible quality of life.

“Palliative care is a very holistic approach,” says David Mintzer, MD, Medical Director of the Palliative Care Program at the Cancer Center. “As medicine becomes more technologically advanced, it tends to move away from focusing on the complete patient. Palliative care brings the focus back to the entire patient not just the disease.”

This notion of focusing on the whole patient is part of a general, national trend in health care toward providing patients relief from pain and suffering throughout the entire course of a disease. The roots of palliative care originated in nursing and pain management and have since spread to medical institutions around the country. “The goal is to provide some type of symptomatic relief for patients no matter where they are in the course of medical treatment. The first step is recognizing a patient's need,” says Dr. Mintzer.

Palliative Care, in fact, is often introduced at the time of diagnosis.“If the patient is willing, I like to meet with him or her and discuss the program,” says Kia Witherspoon, MSN, CRNP and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner. “It's important to realize that palliative care is not hospice care.We're trying to help patients put some normalcy back into their lives and help alleviate whatever pain they might be experiencing, whether its physical, emotional or psychological.”

Funded by a three-year grant from the Betz Foundation, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center's innovative, out-patient based program offers a variety of services including: pain and symptom management, psychological support, patient and family education, social work counseling, nutritional counseling, spiritual counseling, support groups, rehabilitation, music therapy, shiatsu bodywork, art therapy and bereavement counseling.You can be enrolled in any aspect of the Palliative Care Program at any time, depending on your symptoms and needs.

The Palliative Care team meets weekly to discuss patients' needs.“We sit down as a group to discuss what we can do to make a patient's life better,” says Kia. The team also works closely with your oncologist so that both your medical and palliative care treatment work in tandem with one another. Recognizing that cancer affects the entire family, support for your family and caregivers is another essential element of the program.

For more information about the Palliative Care Program, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366). You can also request an appointment online.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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