Cancer Institute: Support Services
At the TGH Cancer Institute, we are committed to ensuring that every patient we see receives world-class care beyond diagnosis and treatment. To help meet any needs that may arise, we offer a comprehensive range of support care services to patients throughout their journey to recovery.
Oncology psychologists specialize in working with patients who are struggling to cope with cancer-related distress throughout the entire spectrum of cancer care, including diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and even end of life. They help patients cope with the physical, mental, and emotional changes that cancer often brings, such as uncertainty, sadness, fear and worry, pain, sleep problems, changes in family dynamics, and treatment side effects.
This interdisciplinary team made up of physicians, nurse practitioners, chaplains, and psychologists work to improve quality of life by managing distressing symptoms and disease burden for those with or without curative disease. The goal is to improve quality of life for patients and for their loved ones while receiving treatment for their disease.
The oncology dietitian ensures that patients get enough nutrition to have the strength for treatment and recovery. The oncology dietitian provides instruction regarding modifications to diet and nutrition to help with symptoms as well as information about use and caring for feeding tubes if needed.
Oncology social workers provide advocacy, education, discharge planning and case management. They are available throughout all phases of the cancer continuum, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative care, end of life and bereavement.
Financial Counseling staff are available to facilitate patients to receive funding from a multitude of government-sponsored programs for which they might qualify.
Cancer Genetics Program
Genetic counselors see patients with personal or family history of cancer that is concerning for inherited cancer risks for testing to better understand the cancer risks in their family. For our patients with inherited cancer risks, genetic counselors provide a personalized management plan as well as follow up care to help them understand how this result can help them with their treatment, early detection, and cancer prevention for themselves and their family members.
Patient Support Groups
TGH Oncology Psychologists lead support groups for patients currently undergoing treatment, as well as for their loved ones. Support groups were developed to offer a space to discuss challenges and triumphs throughout the course of one’s journey in a supportive environment.
Caregiver Support Groups
These support groups are geared toward those who care for someone undergoing cancer treatment. Participants are invited to discuss their experiences with being a caregiver to a patient, including but not limited to experiences with changes in relationship dynamics and caregiver burnout.
Team members from TGH Community Engagement offer a virtual evidence-based group (“Cancer: Thriving and Surviving”) and ongoing education lectures for patients who have completed treatment and are deemed to have no evidence of disease. This group focuses on regaining a “new normal” after cancer and learning to live a healthy life as a cancer survivor.
Surgery, radiation therapy, and or chemotherapy often causes stiffness and pain in parts of the body, especially in the areas where the treatments, IVs, and ports are placed. There may be changes in posture, movement, and motoric functioning. The Physical therapists assess these issues and treat with specific manual therapies, exercises, and home programs. It is important to treat these issues early on to prevent further stiffness.
The Speech-Language Pathologists assist with changes and/or difficulties with speech, voice, and cognitive function. For instance, they evaluate swallow function to make sure that swallowing is safe and efficient to maintain caloric/nutritional intake. They recommend swallowing exercises for strengthening the muscles used for swallowing and to help with modifications (i.e., positioning, postural maneuvers) to help improve efficiency when eating by mouth.
Lymphedema Certified Physical therapists provide manual lymphatic drainage, bandaging for edema management, scar management, home exercise prescription, recommendations for lymphedema pump if appropriate, and compression garment recommendations.
Biofeedback helps patients become more aware of physical changes in the body that usually are not noticed but that can exacerbate physical conditions. Changes in muscle activity, skin surface temperature and emotional arousal are monitored and shown to the patients via signals on a computer monitor. During the evaluation, certain muscle groups are monitored to identify levels of activity and the treatment includes learning relaxation and breathing techniques to enhance mind-body connection.
Hospice services are offered to those who are nearing end of life. They are also offered when a cure for disease is not an option and the patient and his/her family choose to focus on symptom management/quality of life. An interdisciplinary team of medical professionals gather to facilitate a dignified end of life for the patient while simultaneously offering ongoing support for the family and loved ones.