Our goal is to be the secondary medical team for caregivers of cancer patients to develop recommendations and options for them to consider and act upon throughout their treatment process. Our almost 1000 physicians, including Oncologists, Radiologists and other medical professionals are available to oversight a patient’s plan of care, review op notes, deliver another third party reading of CT scans, and suggest other options for treatment not being offered as options to the patient. We also deliver support and assistance to the caregiver. In addition to our hands-on consult and oversight approach for caregivers, the Fight For Life Continuum will also provide caregivers and patients with portal access to comprehensive information on new development in cancer treatments and related topics.
Scholarships are also available, on a case by case basis, to assist the patient and caregiver with expenses that may have to be incurred to travel to a location to receive the best care or to participate in clinical trials.
The Continuum does not charge fees or ongoing costs for medical oversight services to the caregiver and patient but is supported by our member supporters.
Another reading presents the possibility of giving you peace of mind. It helps ensure that you are aware of all possible treatment options and have selected the best one. Even the most experienced physicians can make mistakes every once in a while; therefore, getting a second opinion has a tremendous amount of upside as studies reveal, obtaining a second opinion from a specialized radiologist can significantly diminish the risk of misdiagnosis by approximately 90 percent.
Radiologists are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries utilizing top of the line medical imaging equipment, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound. Radiological courses of treatment should only be prescribed and reviewed by these trained and certified medical professionals.
When it comes to getting a different reading on radiology, a radiologist can read your MRI, CT, or X-ray scans to discern whether costly, invasive, and potentially harmful treatment is absolutely necessary. Getting a second opinion from a specialized radiologist helps eliminate human error. Additionally, there are times where doctors themselves request a second opinion. Within the field of radiology, the slew of diseases can become overwhelming, and accurately identifying and treating them can be a challenge. Even in the world’s top hospitals and most effective medical techniques, a physician assessing your diagnosis and treatment is required to consult a colleague. These consultations can sometimes result to changes in diagnosis and treatment.
The good news is with modern technology you don’t have to wait for long periods of time to get a second opinion.
The Continuum can have patients upload and send their MRI, CT, or X-ray scans online and receive a comprehensive, detailed report from a certified radiologist within a span of 48 hours.
Family medicine is an established specialty in medicine that deals with the human person and his conditions in the context of his or her family. Aside from the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a person’s disease, it also focuses on the promotive aspect of health. Physicians who specialize in family medicine is also called as a general practitioner in some places.
Family medicine aims to provide a holistic approach to dealing with abnormalities in the person’s well-being and his environment. It takes on a dynamic role as changes on how families are formed and maintained throughout the times also continue to change.
A personal physician who provides long-term comprehensive care in the office and the hospital, managing both common and complex illness of adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Internists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, infections, and diseases affecting the heart, blood, kidneys, joints and digestive, respiratory, and vascular systems. They are also trained in the essentials of primary care internal medicine which incorporates an understanding of disease prevention, wellness, substance abuse, mental health, and effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system, and reproductive organs.
Internists can receive training in the following subspecialties:
- Adolescent medicine
- Cardiovascular disease
- Clinical cardiac electrophysiology
- Critical care medicine
- Endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism
- Geriatric medicine
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- Infectious Disease
- Interventional Cardiology
- Medical Oncology
- Pulmonary Disease
- Sleep Medicine
- Sports Medicine
- Transplant Hepatology
Surgery is an indispensable field in medicine that deals with the full range of diseases that require surgical treatment. This discipline requires full knowledge of a broad spectrum of illnesses that could span any part of the human body at any time. Aside from the functions listed, the practice also comprises the performance of invasive diagnostic procedures such as endoscopies, colonoscopies and laparoscopies.
Although a very crucial aspect of a particular patient’s health care experience, it is vital for physicians who practice general surgery to employ proper referrals to other specialties in order to allow for the continuity of the patient’s care. This has never been more important than patients requiring de-bulking surgery for cancer. As an example, women who are diagnosed with Ovarian cancer should always be treated by a Gynecologic Oncologist, a sub specialist.
The importance of being treated by a gynecologic oncologist cannot be stressed enough. According to numerous medical studies, there are significant survival advantages for women who are managed, operated on and treated by a gynecologic oncologist. Why?
- A gynecologic oncologist is a subspecialist who specializes in treating women with reproductive tract cancers.
- Gynecologic oncologists are initially trained as obstetrician/gynecologists and then undergo three to possibly more than five years of specialized education in all of the effective forms of treatment for gynecologic cancers (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and experimental treatments) as well as the biology and pathology of gynecologic cancers.
- Gynecologic oncologists are five times more likely to completely remove ovarian tumors during surgery.
- Eighty percent of ovarian cancer patients receive inadequate surgical de-bulking–the removal of tumor tissue during surgery–and staging when done by non-gynecologic oncology surgeons.
- Survival rate and outcomes for women with ovarian cancer vastly improve with gynecologic oncologists. (see below)
- For those women with ovarian cancer who live in rural areas that may not have a gynecologic oncologist at a local hospital, her care can be supervised by a gynecologic oncologist at a major medical center who has relationships with medical oncologists in surrounding areas to provide the chemotherapy treatment.
The Continuum also has a scholarship program whereby the Continuum may assist the patient with financial support to pay the costs of traveling to other locations to receive the best care possible or for purposes of participating in clinical trials.
As an example of the direct effect of proper care, of the 21 thousand women diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually in the United States, only 1 out of 3 are treated by a Gynecologic Oncologist. That means, that 14 thousand women are not being treated by the right Physician. A study of this population determined that the women being treated by a Gynecologic Oncologist lived 15.2 months longer than women not being treated by a Gynecologist Oncologist.
That is over 17,000 years of living that is lost due to the patient not being treated by the correct physician!
General surgery has a place in cancer treatment but it is not for debulking surgery. It will inevitably be necessary for complications arising from the progression of the disease and it is at this point that it should be embraced.
Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in the world. Unless it is diagnosed at an early stage, cancer can prove to be fatal. However, even if it is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, there are still serious chances of a recurrence at a later age.
It can develop in any part of the body. There are many types of cancer. Some common types include lung cancer, blood cancer, breast cancer and throat cancer. Early detection is vital to finding a viable cure. Chemotherapy is effective only if the cancer is detected at an early stage. That is why you need to keep the most obvious cancer symptoms in your mind. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, it might be a wise idea to seek medical assistance.
Our focus at the Continuum is on cancer. There are so many new developments on new treatment alternatives, it is difficult sometimes to keep up with them all. Many Physicians involved in treating patients with cancer do not provide all options available to the patient, either because the Physician does not have time to keep abreast of all new developments or the Physician has their standard treatment protocol and they do not vary their plan of care. At the Continuum, we do that for the caregiver and the patient, with the express purpose of making sure all options for treatment are available for the patient and caregiver to consider. Whether the subject is the importance of tumor tissue storage at the time of the initial debulking surgery, new developments in immunotherapies or advance genomic testing or, in later stages, the importance of continued simple procedures and treatments to provide extension of life with quality acceptable to the patient, the Continuum will provide the caregiver and patient all of the options and information. This is accomplished through two methods:
---- A hands on approach where the caregiver engages the Continuum to review the plan of care of the patient’s primary medical team, including review of op notes, plan of care, reading of CT scans, MRIs, or X rays, etc, to insure all is being done that can be done with the express purpose of extension of life with quality. We work with the caregiver to empower the caregiver with knowledge to be able to effectively advocate the care of their loved one undergoing treatment.
---- Providing access to a wide array of information in our membership portal for clinical trials, new immunotherapy drugs and research, tumor tissue storage for vaccine treatment, latest articles on breakthroughs in cancer treatments, international treatment alternatives, and much more.
Contact us to discuss how the Continuum can become your team in the fight for life.
The Continuum is a proponent and supports the use of Palliative Care very early after diagnosis. Relieving symptoms and improving comfort and quality of life is an important part of being able to battle cancer.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment, in addition to the related psychological, social, and spiritual problems. The goal is not to cure. Palliative care is also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management.
When is palliative care used in cancer care?
Palliative care is given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer. It should begin at diagnosis and continue through treatment, follow-up care, and the end of life.
Who gives palliative care?
Although any medical professional may provide palliative care by addressing the side effects and emotional issues of cancer, some have a particular focus on this type of care. A palliative care specialist is a health professional who specializes in treating the symptoms, side effects, and emotional problems experienced by patients. The goal is to maintain the best possible quality of life.
Often, palliative care specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team to coordinate care. This palliative care team may consist of doctors, nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, and social workers. Many teams include psychologists or a hospital chaplain as well. Palliative care specialists may also make recommendations to primary care physicians about the management of pain and other symptoms. People do not give up their primary care physician to receive palliative care.
If a person accepts palliative care, does it mean he or she won’t get cancer treatment?
No. Palliative care is given in addition to cancer treatment. However, when a patient reaches a point at which treatment to destroy the cancer is no longer warranted, palliative care becomes the total focus of care. It will continue to be given to alleviate the symptoms and emotional issues of cancer. Palliative care providers can help ease the transition to end-of-life care.
What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?
Although hospice care has the same principles of comfort and support, palliative care is offered earlier in the disease process. As noted above, a person’s cancer treatment continues to be administered and assessed while he or she is receiving palliative care. Hospice care is a form of palliative care that is given to a person when cancer therapies are no longer controlling the disease. It focuses on caring, not curing. When a person has a terminal diagnosis (usually defined as having a life expectancy of 6 months or less) and is approaching the end of life, he or she might be eligible to receive hospice care.
Where do cancer patients receive palliative care?
Cancer centers and hospitals often have palliative care specialists on staff. They may also have a palliative care team that monitors and attends to patient and family needs. Cancer centers may also have programs or clinics that address specific palliative care issues, such as lymphedema, pain management, sexual functioning, or psychosocial issues. A patient may also receive palliative care at home, either under a physician’s care or through hospice, or at a facility that offers long-term care.
How does a person find a place that offers palliative care?
Patients should ask their doctor for the names of palliative care and symptom management specialists in the community. A local hospice may be able to offer referrals as well. Area hospitals or medical centers can also provide information.
What issues are addressed in palliative care?
Palliative care can address a broad range of issues, integrating an individual’s specific needs into care. The physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment may be very different from person to person. For example, differences in age, cultural background, or support systems may result in very different palliative care needs.
Comprehensive palliative care will take the following issues into account for each patient:
Physical. Common physical symptoms include pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia. Many of these can be relieved with medicines or by using other methods, such as nutrition therapy, physical therapy, or deep breathing techniques. Also, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery may be used to shrink tumors that are causing pain and other problems.
Emotional and coping. Palliative care specialists can provide resources to help patients and families deal with the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment. Depression, anxiety, and fear are only a few of the concerns that can be addressed through palliative care. Experts may provide counseling, recommend support groups, hold family meetings, or make referrals to mental health professionals.
Practical. Cancer patients may have financial and legal worries, insurance questions, employment concerns, and concerns about completing advance directives. For many patients and families, the technical language and specific details of laws and forms are hard to understand. To ease the burden, the palliative care team may assist in coordinating the appropriate services. For example, the team may direct patients and families to resources that can help with financial counseling, understanding medical forms or legal advice, or identifying local and national resources, such as transportation or housing agencies.
Spiritual. With a cancer diagnosis, patients and families often look more deeply for meaning in their lives. Some find the disease brings them more faith, whereas others question their faith as they struggle to understand why cancer happened to them. An expert in palliative care can help people explore their beliefs and values so that they can find a sense of peace or reach a point of acceptance that is appropriate for their situation.
Can a family member receive palliative care?
Yes. Family members are an important part of cancer care, and, like the patient, they have a number of changing needs. It’s common for family members to become overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities placed upon them. Many find it difficult to care for a relative who is ill while trying to handle other obligations, such as work and caring for other family members. Other issues can add to the stress, including uncertainty about how to help their loved one with medical situations, inadequate social support, and emotions such as worry and fear. These challenges can compromise their own health. Palliative care can help families and friends cope with these issues and give them the support they need.
How is palliative care given at the end of life?
Making the transition from curative treatment to end-of-life care is a key part of palliative care. A palliative care team can help patients and their loved ones prepare for physical changes that may occur near the end of life and address appropriate symptom management for this stage of care. The team can also help patients cope with the different thoughts and emotional issues that arise, such as worries about leaving loved ones behind, reflections about their legacy and relationships, or reaching closure with their life. In addition, palliative care can support family members and loved ones emotionally and with issues such as when to withdraw cancer therapy, grief counseling, and transition to hospice.
How do people talk about palliative care or decide what they need?
Patients and their loved ones should ask their doctor about palliative care. In addition to discussing their needs for symptom relief and emotional support, patients and their families should consider the amount of communication they need. What people want to know about their diagnosis and care varies with each person. It’s important for patients to tell their doctor about what they want to know, how much information they want, and when they want to receive it.
Who pays for palliative care?
Palliative care services are usually covered by health insurance. Medicare and Medicaid also pay for palliative care, depending on the situation. If patients do not have health insurance or are unsure about their coverage, they should check with a social worker or their hospital’s financial counselor.
Is there any research that shows palliative care is beneficial?
Yes. Research shows that palliative care and its many components are beneficial to patient and family health and well-being. A number of studies in recent years have shown that patients who have their symptoms controlled and are able to communicate their emotional needs have a better experience with their medical care. Their quality of life and physical symptoms improve. In addition, the Institute of Medicine 2007 report Cancer Care for the Whole Patient cites many studies that show patients are less able to adhere to their treatment and manage their illness and health when physical and emotional problems are present.
The Continuum is committed to delivering mental health counseling to caregivers and where necessary, cancer patients. The Continuum has Psychologists and Psychiatrists in its medical pool of professionals who can provide mental health services for the caregiver and patient.
Family caregivers of cancer patients receive little preparation, information, or support to carry out their care giving role. However, their psychosocial needs must be addressed so they can maintain their own health and provide the best possible care to the patient.
Even though family caregivers are the long-term care providers to people with cancer, they receive little preparation, information, or support to carry out their vital role. Family caregivers often are expected to navigate an increasingly complex and fragmented health care system on their own and to find whatever help that may be available. In recent years, the care giving responsibilities of family members have increased dramatically, primarily due to the use of toxic treatments in outpatient settings, the decline in available health care resources, and the shortage of health care providers. Family caregivers of cancer patients have participated in a limited number of intervention programs but these programs have focused almost exclusively on improving patient outcomes (e.g., symptom management, quality of life) with less attention directed to the needs of family caregivers. Family caregivers have psychosocial needs that must be addressed so they can maintain their own health and provide the best care possible to the patient.
A large body of research has documented the effects that cancer can have on the emotional, social, and physical well-being of family caregivers. Cancer patients and their family caregivers react to cancer as one emotional system; there is a significant reciprocal relationship between each person's response to the illness, with family caregivers often reporting as much emotional distress, anxiety, or depression as patients. The advanced phase of cancer is especially difficult for family caregivers, who sometimes report more depression than patients themselves. However, caregivers seldom use any form of mental health services to deal with their own depression or emotional distress, and this puts them at risk for long-term health problems.
Cancer can affect the patients' and caregivers' family and social well-being, especially in areas related to talking about the illness, sexual well-being, changing family roles and responsibilities, and maintaining individuals' social support systems. Problems occur when patients and caregivers hide worries from one another, and avoid talking about sensitive issues associated with cancer and its treatments. Family caregivers experience role overload when they take on patients' household or family responsibilities, in addition to their own. Difficulty communicating and negotiating family roles can hinder patients' and caregivers' ability to support one another, can decrease couples' intimacy, and have a detrimental effect on marital and family relationships.
Cancer also can affect the physical well-being of caregivers. While caregivers' health status is initially like the normal population, caregivers often report more problems with fatigue, sleep disturbances, and impaired cognitive function than non caregivers. Over time, caregivers' burden and strain increases. Caregivers' physical well-being is at greater risk because they have little time to rest, engage in fewer self-care behaviors (e.g., exercise), or often fail to seek medical care for themselves when sick. Over half of family caregivers have chronic health problems of their own, such as heart disease, hypertension, and arthritis, and these health problems can be exacerbated by the stress of caregiving.
The Continuum mental health professionals are prepared to help caregivers and patients navigate these issues for the purpose of improving the lives of the caregivers and patients.
Caregivers are a diverse group. Their care giving experiences range from those that are relatively easy to manage, to those that are burdensome. We know that most caregivers today are able to fulfill this role without experiencing overwhelmingly negative physical, emotional, or financial consequences. On the other hand, caregivers with the heaviest responsibilities are vulnerable to risks such as a decline in health, emotional stress, and economic hardship.
As the baby boom generation ages over the next 25 years, the numbers of people needing care will swell. The numbers of younger people available to provide care are likely to dwindle. This suggests that in the future, caregivers will be older, on average, than today's caregivers and may have greater infirmity of their own. In addition, the younger people who step into a care giving role in the future may perceive they have less choice about becoming a caregiver. A greater share of caregivers may provide care to two or more care recipients.
The future may bring some positive changes as well. In particular, we are likely to see an expansion of the use of technologies that are already available to caregivers and recipients, as well as the development of new technologies.
It is important to recognize that the nearly 66 million caregivers are a critical extension of our formal health care system. Without their efforts, there would be a shift of recipients into public programs such as Medicaid, and the quality of life and the health status of many who need care would decline. It is important to do all we can to support caregivers so they can continue in their roles. Specifically, it is important to:
- Identify and help caregivers who are most at risk for deteriorating health, financial security, and quality of life so that they can continue to provide care while maintaining their own well being
- Identify and advocate for programs that make a real difference in caregivers' well being and in their ability to continue providing care
- Identify and promote the use of technologies that can facilitate care giving
- Extend the reach of caregiver programs to all caregivers regardless of the age of their care recipient
- Encourage families to plan proactively for aging and potential health/disability issue
The Joan L. Kidd MD Fight for Life Continuum recognizes the importance of the role of the care giver to a patient facing a battle with cancer and delivers important and critical information and support.