Is Your Oncology Patient-Care Team Complete?

Is Your Oncology Patient-Care Team Complete?

Every cancer patient deserves the best care possible. There isn’t a provider on the planet who disagrees with that. For many cancer centers and health systems, the best means putting together an all-star team capable of meeting the full needs of the patient, including “financial, psychological, social, logistical or related to communication.” That is why no oncology team is complete without an Oncology Nurse Navigator.

An Oncology Nurse Navigator is a clinically trained individual (typically a professional RN with oncology-specific clinical knowledge) who offers individualized assistance to patients and caregivers to help address barriers to timely and appropriate cancer treatment. They advocate for their patients throughout the cancer care continuum from diagnosis through survivorship and coordinate all components involved in cancer care, including surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists; social workers; patient education; community support; financial and insurance assistance; etc. They perform a vital role on the patient’s cancer care team.

Bringing on an Oncology Nurse Navigator is the first step. Equipping them with the best tools available is the second. That is why so many providers turn to Bag It Cancer. Oncology Nurse Navigators can assist patients with various issues beyond healthcare; comprehensive patient education tools like Bag It matter a lot in these situations. By providing a Bag It Bag, an Oncology Nurse Navigator can also help a patient learn to advocate for themselves and introduce them to reliable information that can often be difficult to find.

Mary Verplank photo Nurse Navigator, Retired

”When meeting patients for the first time, we often find the devastation of the new Cancer diagnosis to be overwhelming.  They are not sure who to turn to, or where to begin.  As certified Nurse Navigators, our first meeting is a cornerstone for care needs and coordination.

Having the Bag It Bag helps to introduce our ability to support and stabilize the care they need.  At the same time, we use it to education them in essential ways.  Lastly, it is a place to keep things from getting misplaced, and helps keep the Cancer ‘in its place’ in their lives from the start.”

Anyone that has ever met with an Oncology Nurse Navigator knows that support like patient education matters a lot and can be the difference between a good and bad experience for patients and caregivers.

So, if you don’t already have an Oncology Nurse Navigator on your team, or are interested in becoming a certified navigator, reach out to our friends at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN).

If your practice needs to upgrade your patient education materials to match your new all-star team, please reach out at cj@bagitcancer.org and learn how Bag It can enhance your practice.

 

 

 

A Healthcare Provider’s Role in Patient Education

A Healthcare Provider’s Role in Patient Education

For many patients, except for a fellow cancer survivor, no one other than their healthcare provider understands how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be. When worry or smiles turn to fear, anger, or sadness, providers are there.

While some providers have long recognized the value of providing comprehensive patient education materials, others have missed the mark by giving little to none, placing the burden on patients to find their own resources or information. When implemented correctly, patient education goes beyond informing patients about their cancer and treatment. It can play a crucial role in helping patients cope better, learn how to become a self-advocate, and how to be engaged in their care.

At Bag It Cancer, we believe patient education is primarily the provider’s responsibility. Most Bag recipients receive their Bag It Bags directly from their providers, ensuring that they’re receiving the trusted information at the right time. So yes, please continue to give your patients the Bag It Bag if you are a current Bag distributor. If you are not, consider how offering this critical aspect of patient care benefits both patients and clinicians.

Studies show that patient education can help patients be more informed, more engaged in their care, better equipped to ask better questions, more compliant with treatment, and enjoy a better quality of life. Providers who directly provide quality education materials like the Bag It Bag can be confident that their patients are accessing reliable information rather than obtaining misinformation that could be dangerous.

Ideally, here is what a patient education session for a newly-diagnosed patient would look like:

A provider walks in with a Bag It Bag and opens it up to introduce it to the patient. The patient, having been informed of their diagnosis, opens My Companion Guidebook to section 1 (My Personal Details) to see that the provider has already written in the details of their current diagnosis. The provider shows them  copies of their recent scans and lab work which have already been added to the appropriate sections and discusses the results and next steps. The patient would also be directed to one of the booklets that the provider feels would be most helpful to them at that time. Now a difficult appointment where many patients often leave dazed and confused has become one where the patient leaves feeling cared for, prepared, empowered, and with a better sense of what to expect.

If you or your team are interested in seeing how Bag It can improve your oncology patient education services, please feel free to reach out at cj@bagitcancer.org or call 520-337-2800.

 

6 Ways to Mind Your Mind During Cancer

6 Ways to Mind Your Mind During Cancer

We all know that a cancer diagnosis can be life-changing for everyone. Its impact isn’t just reserved to the physical changes experienced by patients, but also the mental health toll it can have on patients, families, friends, and entire communities. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, our team at Bag It would like to share some helpful tips for you and your loved ones to ease your journey to survivorship. 

Number one

Change your environment (even for a short while)

Take a vacation with a loved one. Vacations offer many mental health benefits, including reducing depression and anxiety. Your vacation doesn’t need to be extensive; even a weekend road trip can help reduce stress. A study found that “a short, three-day leisure trip reduced perceived levels of stress and reduced levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.” Another option is to take some time to enjoy nature. A 15-30 minute walk outside offers a chance to get some fresh air and reset. Maybe a stroll at the park or a hike on a trail might do the trick.

Number 2

Take advantage of support programs in your community

Support groups are a safe, confidential space to share experiences and connect with others navigating similar challenges. They are often available in person or virtual, and you may find one at a local religious group, cancer center, or local cancer nonprofit. Studies have shown that attending a support group can lead to a better quality of life due to improved mood, self-image, and increased coping ability. 

Number 3

Take some time to count sheep

Sleep plays a vital role in how our bodies recover. A lack of adequate sleep has previously been thought to result from depression, but “growing evidence suggests that poor sleep may induce or exacerbate depression.” Inadequate sleep can also lead to anxiety disorders and may become an added source of worry and hyperarousal, which is a key contributor to insomnia. So find a bedtime each day that works for you. Wind down with some relaxation techniques as part of your bedtime routine and maximize comfort with a great mattress, pillow, and bedding. Your body will thank you for it.

Number 4

Let’s get physical

Exercise offers so many benefits beyond just building muscle and burning calories. Moderate exercise “relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.” No matter your age or fitness level, 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can make a lot of difference. You`ll feel more relaxed and see a change in your self-image. Physical activity is also essential for managing some of the side effects of cancer, including fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, and cardiovascular issues. It also plays a role in survivorship by reducing inflammation and joint pain.  

Additional information can be found in the booklet Living Well with Cancer and Beyond.  So find a fun activity that works for you, and get started today!

Number 5

Form your squad

People face so many challenges daily, and these challenges get even more complex after a cancer diagnosis. It’s natural for people to retreat alone and deal in silence, but it’s not always the healthiest route. Find family members or close friends you trust as members of your support network. Social interactions are good for our overall physical and mental health. Cancer doesn’t have to be the focus of every conversation, and you have the right to determine what you feel comfortable sharing with others. A laugh with friends or dinner at your favorite restaurant can also offer a greater sense of well-being and relieves pent-up stress or pain.

Number 6

Talk to your provider

It’s ok not to be ok. You are not alone. If the challenges around you become overwhelming or you find yourself in a dark place, never be ashamed to seek help. Talk to your provider or find a licensed mental health professional near you. If you have insurance, you can often find a provider in your network by visiting your insurance plan’s website. You can also visit the Bag It Resource Center to find reliable resources.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are available 24 hours a day, everyday, Call: 1-800-273-8255 or Text: “HELLO” to 741741

Sources

Lifeskills Behavioral Health. 2022. Social Connection & Healthy Activities | Mental Health Well-Being. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Four reasons to take a vacation. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Unity Point Health. 2022. 5 Powerful Benefits of Joining a Cancer Support Group (Infographic). [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Suni, E., 2022. Mental Health and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Cancer advocacy, storytelling, and survivorship with Dr. Veronika Panagiotou

Cancer advocacy, storytelling, and survivorship with Dr. Veronika Panagiotou

Dr. Veronika Panagiotou photo

In this episode of Bag It’s podcast, Your Guide Through Cancer, host and Executive Director, Mindy Griffith chats with Dr. Veronika Panagiotou, who currently serves as the advocacy and program manager at the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.  She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few days after celebrating her 25th birthday. Eight years later, she uses her cancer diagnosis and the knowledge she has gained through the process to empower other cancer survivors to tell their stories and support their advocacy.

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It’s Cancer Prevention Month

It’s Cancer Prevention Month

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We wish we could say that all cancer is preventable if you just follow these steps, but that is not the case. However, research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed can be attributed to preventable causes. That is why February is dedicated to cancer prevention. 

Knowing the actions we need to take and actually taking them, does often require change in our lifestyle. Some of the actions we can take might feel a little easier such as not getting too much sun exposure, skipping the tanning bed, and making sure to have sun protection on when you are exposed. Some actions might feel more difficult like maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, making different food choices and exercising regularly. A clean bill of health will show you the effort is worth it.

 

 

Wellness Walk

These behavior changes are listed as the top contributing factors for cancer prevention:

  • Quit smoking: (this includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes) Tobacco use has been shown to increase the risk of developing 17 different types of cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese as an adult increases a person’s risk for 15 types of cancer. Talk to your doctor about what is a healthy weight for you.
  • Be physically active: Being physically active reduces risk for nine types of cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week. 
  • Limit alcohol intake: Order smaller portions and drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
  • Get regular screenings: American Cancer Society cancer screening guidelines by age.
  • Get available vaccines: The Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can significantly decrease the risk of several cancers including cervical, throat, tongue, anal, and other genital cancers. The Hepatitis B vaccine decreases the risk for liver cancer.
  • Protect your skin from the sun: limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., make sure to wear sunscreen, clothing that covers your skin, and avoid tanning beds.
  • Know your family history: Early detection can be key in life saving treatment. Knowing your family history can help you and your doctor plan for regular screenings (which may be recommended earlier with a known family history).
  • Follow a healthy diet: AICR’s New American Plate, (⅔ whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans, ⅓ protein), emphasizes foods that can reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
There are lots of programs that can help you with weight maintenance, quitting smoking and alcohol intake. Talk to your doctor for any recommendations they feel might help. AICR’s website offers healthy recipes that contain cancer fighting foods. 

If talking with your family about their health history feels difficult, practice with a friend first. Remind them that knowing their history can help you with early detection and prevention. If you do not have family available to ask about their history, talk to your doctor about genetic testing that may be available. 

If getting started with activity is a little overwhelming or you don’t know what you like to do, many exercise programs have classes available online. If you find something you enjoy, you are much more likely to engage in activity regularly. Try lots of options and remember to start where you are. 

In this month that focuses on LOVE, show yourself (and those who love you) some love by committing to lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk of being diagnosed with cancer. If you need a little extra support and accountability, you can take the pledge for AICR’s Click, Connect, and Commit campaign which offers a step-by-step guide to incorporate AICR’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations in your everyday routine. You will also find a calendar with small steps you can take every day in February to help work towards your long term prevention goals.

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