Putting The Patient Back Into The Treatment Plan

Mailet's trip to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Blogger Summit in Arizona caused her to think a lot about the current state of cancer treatment and the importance of patient-center care. Read more to find out what CTCA is doing to take a pro-active, patient-first approach to cancer care.

At the end of March, I participated in the Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Blogger Summit in Arizona. I was excited to see familiar faces and to meet an incredible group of bloggers from the cancer community, but I didn't know exactly what to expect from CTCA. My only knowledge of CTCA at the time was from a TV ad about their services that I had seen a while back which I happened to find pretty impressive. My interest was piqued and I was looking forward to learning more.

Before continuing, I want to emphasize that this blog post isn't meant to influence anyone's decision in choosing their care center or hospital, nor is it an outright endorsement of CTCA. Everyone's diagnoses and personal situations (financial, family, work, insurance) are unique, and choosing treatment options and locations is a very important step that must take all those factors into consideration. However, my visit to the CTCA branch in Arizona sparked some thoughts on the current state of cancer treatment and the importance of patient-centered care in the process.

Anyone who's had to go through the unwanted cancer journey, regardless of stage, knows we're in a battle for our lives. I hadn't even had a chance to digest my diagnosis and prepare myself emotionally for what was to come before my doctors started throwing around words like "chemotherapy," "mastectomy," "lumpectomy," and "surgery". When it's life or death, your doctors urge you to act quickly, so next thing you know you're going from one location to another, for a mammogram, a biopsy, an MRI, and consultations with surgeons, and that's just the beginning. It can be very daunting, not to mention frightening.

Within the first few weeks after my diagnosis, I was going back and forth between four different locations for my appointments,(that doesn't include other things like acupuncture, meeting with nutritionist etc). It may sound like a lot but that doesn't even come close to what others have to go through. I had to wonder if it really had to be this hard. If hospitals wanted to put patients first, shouldn't that include doing everything possible to make things easier for us?

It takes a team to get a cancer patient through treatment and back to good health. That was the first thing that struck me about CTCA - you have a team, and your team comes to you. From the oncologists and surgeons to the nutritionists and physical therapists, the team of professionals at CTCA is focused on making everything easier for the patient. Not only is each patient given a team of doctors and medical professionals together to create their treatment plan, but the team also accounts for effects of cancer beyond just the medical. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can all work to eradicate the cancer from your body, but once you're done, you still have to deal with the physical and mental side effects that are so often forgotten. Things like acupuncture (which was essential during my own treatment) to nutrition, survivorship support and even an in house hair salon, were all part of the offerings provided by CTCA all under one roof. By working as one unit, each doctor or specialist is fully aware of the patient's situation - requiring no additional paperwork or having to deal with accessing and faxing medical records.

During my time in Arizona, I found myself wondering how things might have been different for me had everything I needed (or didn't know I needed) been this easy to access. How would it have changed the experiences of the many patients out there? Luckily I happen to be very persistent and driven, so through hours of research and setting up appointments, I was able to get multiple opinions, find natural remedies for side effects, go to an acupuncturist, and change my diet. But it was an exhausting process, and not everyone knows that those options exist, or has the strength or time to do all the research. With the fragmented way in which cancer is treated today, you need to find and create your own team for information and support. The patient-first philosophy at CTCA provides a team that puts you, the patient, at the center of a complete integrative treatment plan, something that all hospitals should look to and emulate.

How did you find the members of your cancer care team during your treatment? Share your experience in the comments below.