Health fair to help cancer patients help selves

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Oncologist Lanie Francis was getting a lot of questions from patients about how to participate in their own care outside the doctor's office.

"My patients were constantly asking how to make changes in their lifestyle and behavior," said Dr. Francis, of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

"They wanted to know about diet, exercise programs, things they can do to improve their pain, sleep, anxiety and other symptoms."

So she organized UPMC's first Integrative Cancer Wellness Fair, featuring 25 providers of yoga, massage, acupuncture, mediation, nutrition counseling and other services to give demonstrations, answer questions and distribute information.

"I feel these things can address many symptoms and improve the quality of life," Dr. Francis said.

The fair will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the UPMC Cancer Center Pavilion, on the second floor of UPMC Shadyside, sponsored by a grant from the Shadyside Hospital Foundation. Some 200 patients, providers, caregivers and staff are invited to attend. Gifts, vouchers and refreshments will be offered.

"It's important to make patients true participants in their care, but many don't want to veer out of standard treatment," she said. "They are looking for support and supervision from their cancer doctor while doing this. That's how we define integrative cancer care as the marriage of supervision and services."

Some cancer centers on the West Coast and in big cities already are incorporating integrative oncology programs with therapists on staff, she said.

"We don't have that within our cancer center. The fair is a way to find out what patients want and need, what some of the obstacles are, so we can intelligently design programs to serve them," Dr. Francis said.

"The first step is to gather outcome data. I truly hope this is a springboard to more programming that fits our patients' needs."

Many of the services offer relaxation as a major benefit. In addition:

* Yoga can improve strength, movement, flexibility, concentration and sleep, awareness of body and can relieve muscle tension, decrease stress and pain and increase well being.

* Acupuncture can counter nausea and pain.

* Meditation can help with mindfulness, coping mechanisms and resiliency.

Sally Kalson: or 412-263-1610.

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