By Sara Bondell
For advanced-stage cancer patients, the disease may not be the only battle they’re fighting.
Many of them are also affected by cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome, a condition that involves appetite, weight and muscle loss. It can prevent patients from receiving anti-cancer treatments like chemotherapy and cause severe emotional distress to patients and their caregivers.
Patients with cachexia often seek help from a variety of resources—nutritionists, physical therapists and oncologists—but multiple visits can be burdensome and communication between providers isn’t always successful. So, Moffitt’s Supportive Care Medicine Program set out to solve the problem.
"We agreed that it would be best if all the disciplines could work together in one clinic to keep the visits to as few as possible for patients and help develop a coordinated care plan where the patient would be in the center," said Dr. Diane Portman, chair of the Supportive Care Medicine Program.
In the fall of 2016, the Vitality Clinic was born. But it stands for more than just the word itself.
Information and guidance for patients and caregivers
Treatment of symptoms that interfere with eating
Appetite enhancement strategies
Leveraging of energy conservation techniques
Interventions to support best nutrition
Testing to optimize care
Your individualized vitality plan
The clinic is a multidisciplinary collaboration between supportive care, nutrition, rehabilitation and oncology specialists to identify symptoms that interfere with a patient’s desire or ability to eat, optimize oral nutritional strategies, help patients conserve energy and maintain strength and provide them and their caregivers educational and emotional support. Assessments can also help identify other supportive care needs, like symptom management and advance-care planning.
This all happens in one single location, the providers working side by side.
"When we have received patients earlier in the course of their care, we have seen a number truly gain weight and really turn a corner," said Portman. "The other place where I think we have made a huge difference is making people feel listened to, cared for and educated about multiple aspects of their disease."
Since it opened, the Vitality Clinic has helped more than 40 patients and their caregivers. Portman says it is one of the only clinics of its kind around the world.
The Vitality Clinic is located on the first floor of the Moffitt Cancer Center by Red Valet. You can be referred to the clinic by your oncology provider.