Integrative care: Extras that help heal
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Acupuncturist Jennifer Leonard has a standing appointment with cancer patient Frank Rose once every two weeks. Rose, 71, is being treated at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center’s integrative cancer treatment center following surgery in September to remove a cancerous brain lesion
(Mary Meeks, Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center)
Rose, 71, went to a hospital in Portland where doctors found a brain lesion about one centimeter in size on his temporal lobe. He flew back to Colorado for surgery to remove the lesion Sept. 9 at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette. He started follow-up radiation treatment on Sept. 24.
After surgery, a nurse in the radiation department suggested Rose visit the integrative-care center on the second floor of the hospital. Integrative care can include procedures such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, vitamin supplements and similar therapies.
In Boulder County, such services also are offered to cancer patients undergoing treatment at Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder and Longmont United Hospital in Longmont. Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville does not have a formal integrative-care program, said Leslie Radocy, the hospital’s chief nursing officer.
At Exempla, the initial integrative-care services Rose received were so helpful to his mindset that he now has standing appointments to meet with a massage therapist once a week, and with an acupuncturist once every two weeks. Rose also has met with the center’s nutritionist to find out what foods will help him feel his best as well as with a social worker to discuss his feelings of fear and worry about having cancer.
By adding integrative-care services into his treatment, Rose said he has managed to create a team of people around himself to help him get better.
At Boulder Community Hospital, Boulder resident Evan Cantor appreciated the acupuncture and massage services he received during follicular lymphoma cancer treatment so much that he has continued them to this day, more than a year after doctors declared his cancer to be in remission. Cantor said he plans to continue getting acupuncture and massage treatments throughout his life to help him maintain his non-cancer status.
“I wanted to do everything I could to prevent recurrence and get stronger,” Cantor said. “I don’t want to ever look back and say I didn’t do something to maintain my quality of life and my wellness.”
Across the nation, cancer patients and cancer survivors who receive integrative-care services do better than those who do not, according to a growing number of patient studies. In a breast cancer study published by the American Cancer Society in 2008, for example, any therapies that helped reduce patient stress levels were found to be beneficial for health, said Jana Bolduan Lomax, director of cancer support services and a clinical health psychologist at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center and at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.
Rose said the acupuncture and massage services seem to be helping him physically.
“I feel like I’m in excellent shape. I have cancer, so I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the people at Exempla are there for me,” Rose said. “They’ve been extremely supportive.”
Boulder Community Hospital cancer-care providers also subscribe to the idea that integrative therapies reduce patient symptoms and help them respond better to chemotherapy, said Carol Brooks, manager of the Center for Integrative Care at Boulder Community Hospital. The center includes eight practitioners and is located in the Tebo Family Medical Pavilion at the Foothills campus near the northeast corner of Arapahoe Avenue and Foothills Parkway.
A growing number of insurance programs pay for some integrative-care services if a cancer doctor recommends the services, Brooks said. Since insurance companies generally pay about 30 percent of integrative-care services, Boulder Community has worked with donors to raise money for scholarships to make up the difference, she said.
Such scholarships are a boon to cancer patients, Cantor said. Cantor bought an integrative-care services “punch card” that offered him 20 visits for such services for $25 each. The punch card is subsidized by scholarship money. He also takes advantage of a drop-in acupuncture clinic in which patients can receive acupuncture services for $10 per time.
At Exempla, the annual Good Sam Bike Jam event – started in 2012 – raised more than $122,000 so far this year to help pay for cancer treatment, including integrative-care services, for those who can’t afford it, said Mary Meeks, an Exempla spokeswoman.
In addition, integrative care services also are about changing the idea that cancer is a terminal illness, Lomax said. In fact, when patients can look at cancer as a chronic illness to be managed, integrative care services really help, Lomax said.
“We’re helping Western medicine care do its job by supporting healthy cells and getting rid of unhealthy cells,” Lomax said. “If we help our immune system function as it’s supposed to, we can reduce the recurrence of cancer happening in patients.”
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