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RSW Living Magazine

Most Important C-Word is Care: Conventional Cancer Care Improves with Supportive Services

Jul 18, 2022 07:00PM ● By Kathy Montgomery

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that with advances in prevention, therapy, and treatment, more people are surviving the diagnosis.  

Dealing with cancer is stressful on the mind and body, and treatment often results in unpleasant side effects. Having some support, from acupuncture to nutritional counseling, can help patients take better care of themselves following a diagnosis. 

“Frame of mind makes a big difference in physical well-being,” says Jennifer Snider, an oncology nurse navigator at Lee Health Regional Cancer Center. “If they are feeling positive and uplifted, they will do better.” 

The center offers patients science-backed supportive therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, and both psychosocial and nutrition counseling that can help alleviate some of the side effects. Supportive care services are essential to patients going through care to have better quality in their day-to-day lives.  

Acupuncture can help increase energy, while reducing pain, neuropathy, tingling numbness, and fatigue for up to 72 hours. It can also help reduce hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. Neuroscience research suggests that acupuncture works by modifying the nervous system through stimulation of specific points throughout the body. In an oncology setting, acupuncture is practiced under strict guidelines and evidence-based protocols.  

Massage therapy is another way that patients can relieve many of the side effects of cancer treatment. Massage helps mobilize fluid back into tissues to increase range of motion, helping with both the emotional and physical impacts. Like acupuncture for cancer patients, oncology massage is more specialized than traditional forms of massage. 

Aromatherapy, also offered at Lee Health Regional Cancer Center, uses essential oils from plants to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, helping to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, and nausea. Studies have shown that patients with various cancers who completed six aromatherapy sessions showed a decrease in anxiety and depression. 

Many of the side effects of cancer treatments such as changes in taste, bowel movements, and weight can be improved by adjusting diet. For that reason, patients are encouraged to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who may also be a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). The RDN works with both patients and caregivers to find ways to alter food intake that improve their quality of life. Using nutrition interventions after treatment can also limit the risk of reoccurrence. 

The cancer center understands the importance of additional help for patients and their families. The philanthropy-backed nurse navigator fund is designed to help provide resources from the time of a diagnosis through treatment. Nurse navigators are on staff to assist patients and their families. 

“I think a lot of patients are stressed out and need help,” Snider says. “They need help to get the rest they need in order to do some of the things that help them be successful, such as doing something with their families, so their life isn’t all about treatment. We want them to be able to live life and have the best quality of life.” 

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is helping patients by granting $2.5 million to expand cancer services at Lee Health’s Bonita Health Center with a 32-chair infusion center, four individual treatment rooms, and 12 exam rooms. To receive $1.5 million of the Schulze Family Foundation grant, the community must raise $1.5 million in donations toward the $10.4 million project. 

“The Schulze family understands the challenges that families endure while battling a life-limiting disease,” says Mary Beth Geier, Florida director of the Schulze Family Foundation. “Having treatment options close to home is essential and helps alleviate some of the difficulties patients and their families face.” 

Creating the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Cancer Clinic is important for patients in southern Lee County and northern Collier County. Patients often have infusions several times a week. Traveling to and from Lee Health Regional Cancer Center in Fort Myers can sometimes be difficult to endure and complicated to arrange. 

When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they don’t always know what they are facing, and neither do their families. Supportive care services are essential to maintain quality of day-to-day life. It helps patients feel supported, that someone sees them and can help them. 

To donate to the expansion project in Bonita Springs or the Nurse Navigator Fund and supportive services, visit


Kathy Montgomery has been writing for more than 30 years about Southwest Florida and the interesting people who live in the region.