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Putting cancer patients in control of their treatment

A new program to help patients have more say in navigating cancer treatment will start soon at the Lynn Cancer Institute.

The relatively new medical sub-specialty is described as focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. CLASSIC stands for the Charles Levitetz Advanced Symptom Support & Individualized Care Program.

Here’s a Q&A with oncologist Dr. Louise Morrell, medical director of the Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

Q: What will this mean for cancer patients you’re treating?

A: We’ve designated this as symptom management. We will make sure we are taking advantage of all the advances for all the symptoms patients have while they’re in treatment. Are we using everything available?

Q: Will every patient have access to this?

A: Not every patient needs this support all the time. But things will come up, and your treating doctor is focused on the treatment. What about the mind-body thing, the pains and neuropathy that can come up. What about sleep, psychological distress, nausea and vomiting? The earlier we address this the better.

Dr. Louise Morrell

Q: Is this really for patients who are terminal?

A: It will include patients who are terminal, but more people are surviving. So this encompasses a continuum of the cancer journey.

Q: At what point will the new program kick in?

A: We have a timeline. Some of these resources are available now. But we’ll be fully engaged in the next six to nine months. We have a plan and the gift allows us to do all the recruiting and hiring.

Q: How will you let the family know this is available?

A: Through the social worker now. But we want to embed this, so it’s very accessible to patients.

Q: Will the patient and family be allowed to not take part in the program?

A: Of course, it’s optional. It’s a resource that will be made available to them.

Q: Is there an extra cost for this?

A: Depending on what the patient needs, it would be expected to go through insurance if there are costs.

Q: What’s the advantage?

A: The fundamental goal is to put the patient in control, so they can voice their values, their priorities and be part of all the decisions.

The program was made possible through a lead gift from the Levitetz Family Foundation, Boca Regional’s foundation announced.

By Marci Shatzman

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