On a scale of one to ten, Elaine, of South Jersey, described her pain as a 23. A stage IV metastatic breast cancer patient, the 46-year-old mother of three couldn’t move her arm, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t hug her children because the pain was overwhelming.
To help her ease the pain, Elaine’s oncologist, breast cancer specialist Generosa Grana, M.D., Director of the Cooper Cancer Institute, referred her to the Palliative Care Program at Cooper University Hospital. Today, Elaine not only is embracing her children again but has gained a renewed strength in fighting the disease. With medication, she now rates her shoulder pain as a two or a three.
“To finally find someone who could actually understand the type of pain I was in, and treat it while working with my oncologist so as not to interfere with any of my chemotherapy or radiation treatments, has truly been wonderful,” Elaine said. She was referring to Mark Angelo, M.D., Director of Cooper’s Palliative Care Program.
“Dr. Angelo has also put me in touch with someone to help with my children to help them cope through this. So, not only is the program and Dr. Angelo looking at ways to ease my physical pain, they are also trying to help with my mental state and dealing with every other part of life. I am able to continue to work and move forward. I have strength to continue fighting in every way I can,” she said.
“Our program is about treating the whole person and how the pain affects his or her life,” Dr. Angelo said of Cooper’s Palliative Care Program. “We know that if a patient can continue with everyday life and control the pain, it brings less stress and better overall emotional strength to fight the physical disease,” he said.
Unlike hospice care, which is end-of-life care, Cooper’s Palliative Care Program focuses on the alleviation of pain and all forms of suffering for patients with advanced, life-limiting diseases. Physicians work in conjunction with the Cooper Cancer Institute to identify patients with cancer who are having difficulty with pain management or other symptoms, such as chronic shortness of breath, weight loss, nausea and depression.
Patients are seen at the Cooper Cancer Institute, where they meet with a palliative-care-trained nurse and a board-certified palliative medicine physician. A needs assessment is made and a plan of action is formulated to achieve expert symptom management. This program may include medications, counseling, spiritual support, physical therapy or other treatment options. The program includes the services of a social worker, dietitian, psychologist and other specialists as needed, to work toward symptom improvement and increased quality of life.
Initial funding for the Palliative Care Program was provided through the generosity of The Cooper Foundation.
For more information on Cooper’s Palliative Care Program, call (856) 673-4215.