Supportive Oncology and Survivorship Program

Supportive oncology consists of numerous types of therapies to ease physical symptoms and emotional stress that can emerge during cancer treatment.

Angela Usher, manager of the Supportive Oncology and Survivorship Program

Angela Usher, manager of the Supportive Oncology and Survivorship Program at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, says that help, ranging from counseling to managing physical discomfort, is available throughout the various stages of diagnosis and care.

“Somebody who is newly diagnosed really wants to know that they can get through this, that other people have done it,” Usher said. “People actively in treatment might be dealing with troubling symptoms, they might be experiencing lymphedema, they might be dealing with physically limiting pain — for that we have palliative care, through the supportive medicine clinic, and that’s where the comfort services can be really helpful.”

Then there’s “survivorship” when treatment is ending — care to help patients face the future. “It comes back to looking at health behavior, ways for people to reclaim their lives, rebuild their strength and not be overwhelmed by the fear of cancer recurring,” Usher said.

Counseling, classes and help with side effects

Counseling services are popular among patients undergoing treatment at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Classes and support groups that are offered include a weekly “Writing as Healing” class to create a therapeutic outlet for self-expression. A chaplain is available for spiritual support. The Supportive Oncology and Survivorship Program team also includes dietitians to help with nutrition assessments, and medical doctors and a palliative medicine nurse to help with symptoms of cancer treatment. Also part of the program are nurse navigators who can help with a variety of patient needs, including coordinating insurance, organizing necessary medical appointments and scheduling language translators, if needed.

New physical therapy option

Patients preparing for bone marrow transplants now have an innovative physical therapy (PT) program available to them. It’s designed to prepare patients before their transplant, by building their strength. Kristen Krueger is the oncologic physical therapist spearheading the program. “It’s very important that cancer patients are as strong as they can be going into cancer treatment, because of the toll that treatment takes on them physically,” Krueger said. “Doing a thorough Assessment and starting PT before treatment allows them to tolerate radiation and chemotherapy better, and also decreases the length of stay in the hospital.” Krueger said the upcoming program focuses on bone marrow transplant patients, but the goal is to expand this pre-treatment option to other cancer patients.