Integrative Medicine at Riverside brings together evidence-based complementary therapies with leading-edge cancer treatment. Simply put, Integrative Medicine focuses on the whole person – body, mind and spirit – not just his or her disease. This combined approach to care, particularly where it involves managing the side effects of cancer and its treatment, has been demonstrated to enhance quality of life for a wide range of people, and has become a growing component of the Cancer Care program that is offered at no cost.
The incorporation of Integrative Medicine as part of the Cancer Care program is to a large part, the legacy of the late Mark E. Ellis, MD. As a pioneer in combining wellness-oriented, complementary therapies with standard cancer care, Dr. Ellis made Integrative Medicine an important part of his work at the Peninsula Cancer Institute, from where the therapies are now expanding to other Riverside care sites.
The Integrative Medicine team is comprised of certified oncology nurses, palliative care coordinators, certified massage therapists, a certified lymphedema therapist, a registered yoga instructor and a registered dietitian, and also includes a music therapy coordinator and pet therapy.
The process begins when new patients are introduced to our nurse coordinator who assesses their needs based on their diagnosis and treatment plan. Based on the assessment and patient interview, other team members will be included in the customized care plan. Then the patient is given a teaching session where we review the treatment plan and address questions and anxieties. The nurse will also coordinate patient appointments with radiation oncology, surgeons and diagnostic testing as needed.
Patients with compromised appetites or poor nutritional status are referred to this service, which is not offered through many cancer programs around the country. Our dietitian holds national certification in oncology, providing education and consultation regarding food, diet, supplementation and chemotherapy. Each month, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, our dietitian presents “Nutrition and Exercise: During and After Cancer Treatment” to our patients and the community. On average, she meets with 20 patients per week addressing their nutritional needs and concerns.
Special Support Services
Riverside and community services feature:
- Family services that include individuals being treated with cancer but focus on the informational, emotional, logistic and other needs of family and friend care givers;
- Patient Navigators who provide one-on-one help to guide patients through the healthcare system in general and the cancer experience n particular; and
- a wide range of other resources to help our patients with everything from transportation and work-related issues to counseling and palliative care. Our palliative care coordinator also serves as a liaison with Home Care and Hospice in the community.
This past year, we initiated a distress screening tool to better address the many psychosocial needs of our patients. In addition, we launched a new Survivorship Program this year to assist patients with their transition from treatment to survivorship.
A wealth of scientific research confirms music’s role in helping people relax by reducing the perception of discomfort and affecting breathing rate and blood pressure in a positive way. Along with helping to reduce anxiety and depression, music also helps distract from the side effects of treatment. Music therapy individualized to each patient is offered through an iPod loaded with personal selections. About 100 patients each month seek music or
movies on a DVD player.
Our massage therapists provide private full-body massage appointments as well as foot massage during chemotherapy treatment. Massage therapists are included in the treatment planning for each of our patients. There are many studies supporting the benefits of massage for individuals with cancer. Documented benefits include stress and anxiety reduction, decrease in pain, and a decrease in possible side effects from medical treatments, such as nausea, fatigue, constipation, and peripheral neuropathy. Patients report that their time in the massage room is restorative and conducive to an overall sense of wellbeing. Currently, approximately 140 patients per month take advantage of massage therapy to complement their treatment.
Animals have a long history of providing people with unconditional acceptance, affection and companionship. Pet Therapy at Riverside is provided by our generous and enthusiastic community of volunteers who bring their certified therapy dogs – specially trained to be gentle and comforting around people – to interact with patients to the benefit of both species. There are currently 10 different dogs that visit our facilities on a weekly basis.
Mindful Yoga is a weekly program designed to meet the specialized needs of patients wherever they are in their process of healing. The atmosphere in the yoga class promotes relaxation and rejuvenation. It includes breathing techniques for stress reduction and guided imagery, along with gentle yoga poses that increase flexibility and stamina.
Our commitment at Riverside Cancer Care is to embrace every cancer patient as an individual. It’s an essential part of what we mean by taking cancer personally. Integrative Medicine allows us to be patient-focused and promotes whole patient care and healing, truly providing a comprehensive approach to cancer care. Integrative Medicine is provided by Riverside Health System at no additional cost to the patient. The Mark E. Ellis Endowment Fund was created to provide support for these important services. You can contribute to this fund securely online through the Riverside Foundation.