Cancer center starts new program, clinical trial

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Special to the Opelika Observer

The search for a cure for cancer is ongoing, but researchers from The Ohio State University created a program called From Cancer to Health™ in an effort to improve the quality of life for a group of breast cancer patients. The results exceeded their expectations, with participants reporting reduced anxiety, improved immune system function, decreased pain and other symptoms, and an improvement in their sense of well-being.

The program is launching at the Cancer Center of East Alabama this month, and is the only From Cancer to Health™ program currently being offered by a hospital in Alabama. The facilitators are Peggy Howland, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist, and Chelsea Kroll, MSW, oncology social worker.

While the original program at Ohio State University served only patients with breast cancer, the program at EAMC will be open to individuals diagnosed with any type of cancer. From Cancer to Health™ is made available through the EAMC Foundation’s Robert and Marjorie Goodson Oncology Wellness fund.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for newly diagnosed patients to learn practical tips for reducing stress and coping during cancer treatment. A diagnosis of cancer is very stressful, and reducing that anxiety is important to recovery,” said Howland. “The group is closed, which means that participants will be with the same group throughout the program.”

Howland stressed that this is not a support group, although participants will receive support from facilitators and other members. “The primary purpose is to teach patients practical techniques to lower their anxiety level, improve their diet, increase physical activity, and improve communication and relationships. We’d like to see the same results that the group at Ohio State University did,” she said.

An additional aspect of the program is that it is part of a national clinical trial. However, Howland stated that participation in the study is optional for members of the group. “I hope that people will consider being a part of the clinical trial. It involves completing a series of questionnaires during the program, and all information is kept confidential and secure,” she said. “The clinical trial will help researchers determine how effective this therapy is as part of a cancer treatment regimen. It has the potential to help other cancer patients in the future.”

Only five other hospitals in the United States are participating in this clinical trial. They are Indiana University Ball Memorial Hospital (Muncie, Ind.), Josephine Ford Cancer Institute – Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit), Urology Center of Raleigh (N.C.), Ohio State University Stephanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center (Columbus) and Baylor Regional Medical Center (Plano, Texas).

Each group will consist of 12 people who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past six to eight months and are currently undergoing treatment or who have recently completed treatment. The group will meet for 16 weekly sessions, then monthly for eight months to help maintain positive lifestyle changes and continue support.

“It’s exciting to continue our commitment to the total – or holistic – care of the patient,” said Kroll. “The From Cancer to Health™ program is another opportunity for us to partner with our patients as they travel the journey of living with cancer and adjusting to the ‘new normal’ it entails.”

Edith Graves, M.D., is a medical oncologist at the Cancer Center, and she is optimistic that the program will benefit patients.

“I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to offer this clinical trial here at EAMC,” Graves said. “Quality of life issues for cancer patients often get relegated to the ‘back-burner.’ With the expertise and guidance Dr. Howland and Ms. Kroll bring, along with the goals of the program, I feel we are adding a powerful tool to the holistic care of our patients. I look forward to participating in this initiative.”

For more information about From Cancer to Health™, contact Kroll at 528-1076 or Howland at 821-3350.

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