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Supportive Oncology for Comprehensive Cancer Care

Yesterday I had the opportunity to tour the Supportive Oncology Suite with our Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator, Kristin Smith. The Supportive Oncology Suite is part of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University’s Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care, located within Prentice Women’s Hospital. Prentice already has a reputation for being a first class facility with great technology and of course, an amazing view of Chicago’s lakefront.  Fortunately, I was able to see what all the fuss was about once I stepped out onto the 5th floor and made a quick right into the space Kristin calls her “office.”

Once inside and past reception, I entered what is called the Healing Boutique. This relaxing atmosphere has a wall of windows looking out onto Lake Michigan with 2 chairs set up in front of a large mirror. It’s a space where cancer patients who have lost their hair to chemotherapy can come in and get a free wig fitting courtesy of the American Cancer Society. It’s also a space where patients can come in and find more holistic resources for cancer care. They can select from a variety of calming music to borrow while they are receiving their treatment in the infusion suite or several cookbooks to take home geared toward cancer patients, selected by a certified dietician. Patients can also just come here to relax or meet with the supportive oncology staff which includes psychologists, physical therapists, nurses and patient navigators.

Down the hall is a massage and acupuncture room where patients can receive up to 5 free treatments from a certified masseuse and/or acupuncturist. Often patients receive these services in the infusion suite while they are undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Across from that room are 2 offices housing psychologists that meet with cancer patients and survivors to discuss any questions, concerns or issues that they may be struggling with or need additional support with, including fertility concerns.  Finally, as you reach the back of the suite, there is a rehabilitation room where cancer patients can come every Wednesday and receive help with health issues such as lymphedema, a condition that occurs when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged and lymphatic fluid collects in those tissues, causing swelling. The Supportive Oncology suite serves as a one-stop-shop for cancer patients who can visit with their oncologist and receive rehabilitative services in the same place.

The 5th floor, Supportive Oncology suite also houses weekly group meetings sponsored by Gilda’s Club Chicago for patients, survivors, family and friends. In addition, the dieticians in the supportive oncology suite will be starting a weight management/weight loss group beginning after Labor Day.  It will be an 8 week structured program focusing on healthy diets, exercise, food preparation and gradual, sustained weight loss open to any patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and may be of particular interest to cancer patients and survivors with fertility concerns.  Make sure to stop by and visit this great resource if you are in the Chicago region or visit the American Cancer Society to find resources in your own area.

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