At the San Diego Cancer Center, treatment isn’t just about pills, injections, radiation and surgery. It’s also about feeling good, having companions and enjoying life.
Art therapy, yoga, reiki, acupuncture and other courses are offered at the center’s nonprofit affiliate, the San Diego Cancer Research Institute. The institute’s Integrative Program is designed to help patients get the willpower and peace of mind to endure debilitating and painful treatments. They are not a substitute for conventional medical treatments given by the cancer center.
The theme of emotional support extends to the room designs and furnishings at the cancer center. Its “serenity room,” quiet and decorated with art, provides a place for delivering bad news. The “chemo room,” where patients receive infusions of chemotherapy drugs, resembles a parlor or salon, with coffee, munchies and magazines.
In short, the Cancer Research Institute and Cancer Center aims to treat the patient, not just the cancer. Reducing stress and strengthening a patient’s will to live can improve the patient’s quality of life, said Michele A. Rodgaard, a licensed clinical social worker at the center, which has offices in Vista and Encinitas.
Rodgaard co-founded the Integrative Program with Dr. Daniel Vicario in 2002. Vicario is medical director of the institute, and is conducting a clinical trial of the effectiveness of various kinds of prostate cancer treatment. Last month, 10News honored the duo for the program with a Leadership Award.
While the institute and cancer center advocate a connection between increased survival time and psychological boosts such as belonging to support groups, that has not been borne out in the medical literature. However, a study published in the Dec. 13, 2001, New England Journal of Medicine found that breast cancer patients who belonged to a support group had less pain and depression than those who didn’t.
A cancer patient’s emotional outlook can help determine how faithfully he or she adheres to the therapy regimen, said Dr. Lynette Cederquist of the cancer center. So even if indirectly, mood can bear on survival. Cederquist helped develop a class for chemotherapy patients on how to keep themselves as strong as possible.
“I would stress the importance of patients becoming actively involved in their care,” Cederquist said. “We can’t do everything for them, but we can educate them and advise them. They really have to be an active participant in taking care of themselves.”
— Contact staff writer Bradley J. Fikes at email@example.com or (760) 739-6641.
San Diego Cancer Center/San Diego Cancer Research Institute
LOCATIONS: Vista and Encinitas
SPECIALTY: Integrative care, matching medical treatment with nutritional and emotional support
CONTACT: (760) 598-1700 (Vista), (760) 634-6661
Reprinted with permission of the North County Times.