Supportive Care at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center
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Psychological Services

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Professional Support Services

Social Work Services

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer presents challenges not only to the patient, but also to their caregivers and loved ones. Obstacles and tasks characterize each stage of the disease process. Trying to overcome these obstacles and accomplish these tasks can become overwhelming. Meeting with a social worker can help to normalize the situation and help both patients and their loved ones come to terms with this disease.

Services include:

  • helping patients gain access to transportation
  • assisting patients with medical insurance information
  • providing information about pharmaceutical benefits programs in the event that patients cannot afford their medications
  • helping patients to access the medical assistance system if they have lost or have no insurance
  • providing resources to help with legal issues
  • providing groups to support those who need the comfort of others to help them

Social workers also meet with patients and families on an "as needed" basis to help them through crisis periods. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a social worker, please call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Nutritional Counseling

Eating well and utilizing nutrition, as a form of your personal attack against cancer, is important throughout cancer treatment.

Nutrition services offered at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center can help you develop your individualized nutrition plan. Throughout the course of treatment, the areas of discussion may include:

  • managing the side effects of treatment that may affect your ability to eat
  • finding ways to obtain adequate hydration
  • food suggestions to help maintain weight
  • food preparation ideas to conserve energy if fatigue is overpowering
  • drug nutrient interaction analysis between chemotherapy medications and herbs or nutritional supplements
  • use of alternative forms of nutrition such as tube feedings if eating is not feasible

Consultations are available for a broad range of areas including:

  • evaluating current nutritional supplementation that may be promoted to an individual with cancer
  • examining the safety and efficacy of nutrition and herbal supplements
  • exploring the role of nutrition in the recovery process

For more assistance in developing your own nutrition plan, try some of our suggested recipes. Also, individual appointments are available with a registered dietitian to help assess your nutritional status and develop a plan for improvement. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Psychological Services

To help patients cope with the psychological impact of cancer, the Karnell Cancer Center offers psychological support services as an addition to standard medical care. Therapy is conducted primarily by clinical psychology interns and post-doctoral fellows from Pennsylvania Hospital's Department of Psychology. In addition, a staff psychologist is available to meet with patients.

The therapists have an impressive range of training and experience in working with varied populations - adults and children, individuals and families, patients with chronic physical illness, patients with severe mental illness, and patients from differing cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They are capable of providing a range of skills and knowledge to help individuals adjust to a diagnosis of cancer.

Services include:

  • individual therapy
  • family sessions
  • therapy with young children (of cancer patients)
  • relaxation training
  • hypnosis
  • assessment of key problem areas
  • couples therapy
  • group psychotherapy for breast cancer patients
  • hospital visits

Within these services, our therapists have developed relaxation techniques to reduce patients' nausea and vomiting, used hypnosis in post-surgery recovery, helped patients explore and better understand how their past impacts the present and how their hopes for the future shape today.

Our therapists are aware that one's sense of identity, self-understanding and unique personality can get lost in the context of suddenly being diagnosed with cancer. We work to learn about patients beyond the medical diagnosis - to find the person amidst the fears, doubts, and confusion of dealing with cancer.

Questions addressed in therapy include:

  • What are the strengths you call upon to confront cancer on both a physical and emotional level?
  • How can you best understand the reactions of family and friends?
  • How do you communicate your needs to family and friends?
  • How do you handle losses associated with cancer?
  • How do you adjust to life after cancer?

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a psychologist, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).

Chaplain/Pastoral Care

Chaplains are available for spiritual direction and support, both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. A chaplain is an integral part of the cancer care team and an active participant in the Palliative Care team which focuses on relief of suffering, either physical, emotional, social or spiritual in nature.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a chaplain, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366).


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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.

Related Links
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