Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center to develop online therapy directory

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BENNINGTON — Getting diagnosed with cancer is an overwhelming moment in an individual's life. With growing technology, cancer patients are able to access complementary and alternative treatment to help with the treatment process.

Since receiving feedback from its patients at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the staff in the regional cancer center want to provide a more convenient way to locate a variety of therapies. These include acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic medicine, herbalism, massage, Qigong, reflexology, Reiki, Tai Chi and more.

By the end of the year, there will be an online directory of regional practitioners who offer the listed services. Rebecca Hewson-Steller, RN and breast health navigator at SVMC Women's Imaging Department and the cancer center, said the idea came about when patients were asking where they could get a massage in the area.

"We do a community needs assessment every three years and it came up in the focus group and we've done community outreach," Hewson-Steller said. "When we talked to the hospital, we decided it was a worthy project."

Practitioners in southern Vermont, nearby New York and western Massachusetts can fill out a form online by Nov. 1 offering a complementary service.

The directory is a way for the cancer center to enhance the care offered to the patients. The difference between the two types of therapies is that complementary is used in addition to conventional medical treatment. It helps patients cope with the treatment better, according to Cancer Research UK.

Alternative therapies can be used instead of the medical treatment, but must go through testing by law to prove the success.

A particular method, art therapy, allows patients to express their feelings in a way they may not otherwise, creative art therapist Eileen Druckenmiller said. She has already signed up to be included in the directory.

"I think the awareness is growing," Druckenmiller said. "It's nice to see now that [cancer center staff] using the technology that's out there to spread the word. Before, the technology wasn't there. Before, people called up to get information. This makes it more convenient."

Druckenmiller hasn't worked with cancer patients in the immediate area, but she has worked with young children with the diagnosis in New York City.

"It offers another opportunity to increase their overall wellness," she said. "In my case being an art therapist, it allows them another opportunity to express emotions that might get bottled up or that you don't want to express with your family or physician or your nurse. It provides another opportunity to deal with the physical emotions throughout the course of your treatment. It's a two-way street."

She also noted the link between the mind and body and how important it is to get through recovery by getting better overall, not just with medical treatments.

Qigong has been previously offered at the hospital for cancer patients. It's been shown to improve a patient's quality of life and mood and reduce fatigue as well as other side effects of treatment. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the practice can also reduce inflammation.

Qigong is a traditional mindfulness meditation in conjunction with breathing exercises to aid in the onset of anxiety and depression.

Those interested in being listed in the directory can visit svhealthcare.org/services/cancer-center/cam-registration.

Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.


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