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Supportive Oncology FAQ

Call (404) 778-1900 to make an appointment with the Supportive Oncology.

How will my cancer diagnosis affect my daily life and responsibilities?
Your illness and treatment may affect your family life, functioning at work or school, financial stability, or ability to plan for the future.  People with cancer and their loved ones may experience periods of sadness or anxiety as they adjust to the ramifications of cancer.  Communications with family, friends, or coworkers can become strained.  Daily responsibilities such as caring for children or running a household can become difficult to  manage while undergoing treatment.

How can I adjust to the changes my cancer diagnosis brings to my daily life?
Oncology social workers are available to help those affected by cancer to cope with their concerns.  They provide support, practical assistance, and individual, family, and group counseling.  In addition, oncology social workers also moderate support and educational programs and regularly provide referrals to community resources.

To contact a social worker, please call (404) 778-5933.

What is palliative care?
Palliative care focuses on all the ways a serious illness like cancer can affect patients and families. Our goal is to help the whole person with the physical and emotional suffering that dealing with cancer can bring. Discussing palliative care at the beginning of cancer treatment provides the maximum benefit.

What are the benefits of palliative care?

  • Control pain
  • Relieve symptoms such as nausea, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, fatigue, and depression
  • Provide counseling in making difficult medical decisions
  • Provide emotional and spiritual support
  • Coordinate home care referrals
  • Help navigate the complex healthcare system
  • Assist with advanced care planning regarding future care and treatment

What kinds of changes should I make to my food intake and diet during and after treatment?
Our registered dietitian, Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LD, is available to answer questions and address concerns about managing your diet, weight, treatment side effects, and supplement information. Tiffany is a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and completed a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. At Winship, her role is to provide nutrition assessments and education for oncology patients and families during and after treatment. 

To schedule a personal appointment with the dietitian call (404) 778-5646.

What are the goals of nutrition counseling?

  • Manage treatment side effects
  • Manage change in appetite
  • Achieve/maintain optimal body weight
  • Review tube feeding needs and management
  • Cancer prevention and nutrition education
  • Review supplements
  • Educate family members/caregivers about your individual needs
  • Enhance quality of life during treatment
  • Evaluate the risks and benefits of complementary medicine

Where can I go or who can I talk to if I have personal or spiritual concerns while at Winship?
At Winship, the Pastoral Services department provides chaplains that offer spiritual care, support and presence to patients, families and staff. The support of the chaplain continues from the outpatient to inpatient care facilities.

Located on the first floor at Winship, The Purdom Chapel is an interfaith chapel available for individual and group times of silence, prayer and meditation. The chapel is open during the clinic business hours. Chaplains are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To speak a chaplain during business hours, contact the Pastoral Services office at (404) 778-4691. After business hours or on weekends, call (404) 712-2000 and ask the operator to page the on-call chaplain.

Where can my family and I access other resources?
Cancer patients and their families need more than just quality medical care.  At Winship we know they need plenty of support and cancer information to help them make the best healthcare decisions.  That's why we created the Winship Patient and Family Resource Center: to give patients and their families a single source to turn to for the help and support they need to battle cancer.  The Resource Center, located on the first floor of the Winship Building, combines a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere with a library of educational literature about cancer and its treatment.

The Resource Center is located on the first floor near the café and is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  For more information, call (404) 778-5286.

What kinds of amenities are available at the Resource Center?

  • Cancer information, from specific diseases to more holistic material, targeted to both children and adults and in multiple languages
  • Computer terminals in private rooms with Internet access for research or to check email
  • Small office area with Wi-Fi, a fax machine, and telephone
  • Relaxed, living room style sitting area
  • Boutique for medical stockings, wigs, and prosthesis for patients
  • Tables for working or writing
  • Support group information
  • Library of books and magazines
  • DVD players and movies for loan within the building
  • Children’s area with games and activities
  • Places to meet or speak with volunteers
  • Information on volunteer services, peer partners (patient and survivor matching), and social services

What is the Radiance Boutique?
The Radiance Boutique at Winship is stocked with wigs, compression garments, mastectomy bras, and prostheses to offer cancer survivors a level of healing and normalcy beyond a medical level. 

Please call or email Elizabeth Goodman to set up an appointment at (404) 778-1264 or elizabeth.goodman@emoryhealthcare.org.

What do I do when I lose my hair?
Set up an appointment with Elizabeth Goodman, the Radiance Boutique coordinator.  Wigs of the highest quality of synthetic and natural hair are available.  Your cap size will be measured, and hair can be ordered to match your natural hair; after you get your wig, you can go to a hairdresser and have it styled the same way your natural hair was styled.

What should I do before my first appointment?
Obtain information about your health insurance benefits, obtain any necessary referrals per your plan, be prepared to pay any co-pay at the time of service, and bring your insurance care with you.  Winship also has an Oncology Resource Coordinator free of charge who can help assist you with understanding the financial demands of cancer treatment.

What does the Oncology Resource Coordinator do?

  • Review your insurance coverage with you
  • Discuss out-of-pocket financial obligations
  • Address concerns you may have with your coverage
  • Help locate additional financial coverage options and resources for which you may be eligible

If you have questions about insurance or billing before or between visits, please call (404) 778-5742.

What are support groups?
Support groups are a unique opportunity for patients with specific cancer types to talk and learn more about treatment options, improve quality of life, and make friends. Winship hosts cancer-specific and topical support groups throughout each month on the Emory campus.  These groups are facilitated by licensed social workers, registered nurses, and other professionals.  There are various support groups that are open to patients, survivors, and caregivers.

What are the advantages of support groups?

  • Provides a connection in an experience that can feel isolating
  • Provides support during difficult times
  • Provides information and coping skills
  • Makes people feel less helpless by helping others
  • Offers tips that only cancer survivors can provide
  • Allows powerful emotions to be shared

What is the Peer Partners Program?
Winship’s Peer Partners Program matches cancer survivors and caregivers with cancer patients and caregivers dealing with similar cancer diagnoses, pre-cancerous conditions, or benign tumors.  Peer Partners complete a training program, are supervised through Winship Social Services and offer confidential, one-on-one support based on their own previous cancer experiences.  The program is available to all patients and caregivers regardless of where they receive treatment and offers flexible locations and scheduling determined by both the partner and the patient.

To learn more, contact Jim Hankins, Director of Patient and Family Services at james.hankins@emoryhealthcare.orgor (404) 778-5716, or William Gesner, Jr., MBA at william.gesner.jr@emoryhealthcare.orgor (404) 778-5933.

What are clinical trials?
Research studies conducted with patients are called clinical research studies or clinical trials.  The purpose of these studies is to answer specific questions and find new and more effective ways to treat cancer patients. Most of the standard treatments used today were tested and shown to be effective through clinical research studies. There are many personal and medical reasons why a patient may choose to take part in a research study. Participation in clinical trials is always voluntary, and you may leave a study at any time.

How do clinical trials work?
Research studies are carefully planned. The physicians and advanced practice providers, nurses and other caregivers are chosen because they have a strong commitment to finding better treatment for cancer. They care about your comfort, health and your well-being. Highly personalized attention is given to you during treatment as you follow the research plan. Your physician can remove you from the study if it is no longer best for you. Physicians who conduct the research are monitored to ensure they follow the highest possible standards of care.

Are the trials regulated?
Yes. All clinical trials at Emory are federally regulated and approved by the Emory University Institutional Review Board (IRB). The purpose of the IRB is to protect the patient. The IRB is made up of scientists, doctors, clergy and members of the local community. The IRB reviews all studies to ensure that they are well designed with safeguards and that the risks are reasonable in relation to the potential benefits.

What do the different phases of clinical trials mean?
Phase I clinical trials do not look for medical benefits. Phase I clinical trials test a brand new drug, device or procedure. These trials determine how well humans handle the new drug or procedure and how safe it is. Phase I trials often are conducted to see which dose, or how much of a drug, works best.

Phase II clinical trials test the drug to see if it works against a specific disease (for example, a particular type of cancer). In these research studies, the researcher records the medical benefits discovered.

Phase III clinical trials compare the new drug or procedure to accepted treatments to determine which works best.

What does a "randomized" trial mean?
If you enroll in a Phase III trial, half the participants will receive the accepted standard treatment, and the other half will get the new treatment. Selection of who will receive which treatment is done in a random manner, usually by a computer. Sometimes your provider does not know which therapy a participant receives. Only when the study is complete, will you find out which medicine you received and how it performed in comparison to the other.

How do I find out about clinical trials at Winship?
Your doctor or research nurse will tell you about the treatments being studied at Winship and Emory. If you are determined to be an appropriate candidate, you will be given an "Informed Consent Form" that will discuss the purpose, risks and potential benefits of participating in the study. It is important for you to ask your doctor or research nurse to explain any part of the study that you do not understand before you sign the consent. If you choose to participate in a clinical trial, you will be followed closely by a team of caregivers during the course of treatment, as well as long term. Data collected will be recovered, reviewed, analyzed and shared with other research teams around the world. However, all data is kept strictly confidential and no information that identifies you is distributed or published.

Will my insurance cover a clinical trial?
Some insurers will cover your participation in a clinical trial and some will not. Our financial counselors will help you review your insurance policy to find out about coverage. If you are not covered, we can investigate alternatives to help pay for the clinical trial. Another helpful resource is the National Cancer Institute's guide, "Clinical Trials and Insurance Coverage - A Resource Guide.