For the media

Head and neck clinic offers post-cancer treatment care

By The Health News Team | April 26, 2023
Nurse in mask comforting senior patient

Completing treatment for cancer can be an exciting time for patients. However, it can also be a time of worry and uncertainty. Many patients may still deal with the side effects of treatment, medical bill concerns, the fear of reoccurrence, and the stress of returning to work and other daily activities.

Patients must cope with these challenges while the world at large assumes they are ready to return to “normal.” Because patients in this stage of survivorship are not seeing their doctor and care team as frequently as they did during treatment, they may be missing the level of support and guidance they formerly had.

Additionally, after treatment for head and neck cancers, patients often contend with a variety of side effects, such as throat and mouth pain, thick secretions, very dry mouth or difficulty swallowing. The Moving Ahead Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic at Sharp Memorial Hospital aims to fill the gap in care by offering support after cancer treatment ends.

Continuing care with the head and neck clinic

The clinic offers a monthly hour-long virtual appointment to patients who have completed cancer treatment. Patients meet individually with a speech therapist, dietitian, social worker and oncology navigator, who is a nurse or provider with specialized cancer knowledge. Patients can participate in the clinic for up to 12 months, although most people finish within four to six months.

Angelea Bruce, a registered dietitian and oncology navigator at The Cancer Centers of Sharp HealthCare, works at James S. Brown Pavilion (formerly called Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion) and assists patients through the clinic while emphasizing the team’s holistic approach.

“During this time, patients can get support with things like the timing of returning to work and how to approach their employer if they need a modified work schedule,” she says. “They can also get guidance on how to safely resume physical and social activities.”

Bruce adds that patients benefit from consistent coaching and encouragement, as well as advice on everyday activities, such as food preparation and meal planning. Additionally, the clinic is free of cost and patients’ support people are welcome to participate.

Support group for survivors, an additional tool

Sharp HealthCare also offers a support group for head and neck cancer patients and survivors. The group is led by an oncology dietitian and a social worker, who can help facilitate discussions about healing and symptom management.

According to Bruce, cancer survivorship is not an endpoint after diagnosis. Rather, it is a journey that continues throughout a cancer survivor’s life. Specialized support and services are of great value to patients throughout their cancer experience, not only at the beginning or toward the end of treatment.

Bruce sees this value firsthand. “I find it really rewarding when, after seeing cancer patients endure moments of doubt and discouragement, they say they are enjoying life again,” she says.

Learn more about head and neck cancer treatment at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.