A Model Integrative Medicine Program for Head and Neck Cancer

headneckresearchThe purpose of this planning grant is to develop a potential model integrative medicine program for patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer. This work is being carried out as a collaborative effort between the Osher Center and the Head and Neck Surgery Cancer Clinic in the UCSF Department of Otolaryngology.

Head and neck cancer (HNC) has received far less attention from researchers focusing on supportive cancer care than other cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.  Recently, papers have described the significant needs that patients with head and neck cancer experience from the time of diagnosis; during treatments that can lead to pain, xerostomia, fatigue, and related problems; and into recovery which can be characterized by continuing psychological challenges and on-going symptoms.   While numerous studies have described the challenges faced by HNC patients, few describe supportive efforts to provide assistance. 

A primary purpose of this project is to create a potential model integrative medicine program for head and neck cancer care that would provide personalized supportive care for patients being treated for head and neck cancer by surgery and radiation. The project includes in-depth interviews with former and current patients of the Head and Neck Surgery Cancer Clinic, as well as faculty and staff of the Clinic and Cancer Center as well as the Department of Radiation Oncology, to evaluate the need and interest in integrative approaches to support patients.

Following these interviews, the project is identifying barriers that have prevented the use of integrative approaches in the past and potential strategies to overcome these barriers.  The project culminates with a description of potential model program of personalized integrative medicine supportive care that could be implemented throughout the sequence of care at the Head and Neck Surgery Cancer Clinic from diagnosis, through treatment including surgery and radiation, and into recovery.

The model of personalized integrative care is being designed so that it coordinates with and takes advantage of existing services at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, such as social work, psycho-oncology, and the Cancer Resource Center, including their specialized dietary counseling.


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