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Head and Neck Cancer Program: March 29, 2019

For many patients, it’s a life-changing diagnosis. “It affects not only the physical portion of the function but the emotional, the nutritional dynamics with family and work. With any cancer diagnosis, it’s not just treating the disease it’s treating the person as a whole,” said Denise Pfeiffer, a rehabilitation navigator with Lee Health.

Patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer see many health experts, have multiple appointments and different treatments—all can become overwhelming. “This was the best way that I could come up with that they could meet with a speech pathologist, an oncology dietitian, the head and neck nurse navigator, and the rehab navigator all at one time,” said Stacey Brill, a speech and language pathologist with Lee Health.

The new head and neck education program is a one-time class providing patients with the knowledge and support they need to overcome any barriers they may face during their cancer journey. “It’s a long journey, and the good thing about this class is we go over what we do, and we give patients the opportunity to meet with us after class,” said Veena Sharma, a nurse navigator with Lee Health.

Patients can attend the free class as soon as they are diagnosed. The goal is to help them prepare for the next steps. “Learning who your team is, and who is going to be there for me throughout my journey? How do I contact them if I have a question,” said Pfeiffer.

Each health expert provides information that will help patients understand their care. “My role is typically to tell them how their nutrition needs are going to change over time, discuss weight loss, the possibility of malnutrition, and also explain feeding tubes,” said Taylor Lawless, a clinical dietitian with Lee Health.

Answering questions and providing support from the very beginning of the cancer journey.

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