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VA Connecticut Healthcare System

 

Cancer Center Services

Hematology and Oncology Specialty Services

  • Oral Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous Chemotherapy
  • Supportive care (transfusions, fluids, growth factors)
  • Chemotherapy trained nurses (including Oncology Nursing Certified nurses)
  • Chemotherapy pharmacist

Radiation Oncology

When VA Connecticut Healthcare System cancer patients require radiation therapy they are referred to either:

  • the Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale-New Haven Hospital,
  • the Jamaica Plain Campus of the Boston VA Healthcare System, or
  • the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Bronx, NY.

The site of radiation therapy is determined based on the patient's location of residence and radiation therapy needs. Together these sites offer a wide range of specialized radiation techniques including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), gamma-knife radiosurgery for brain tumors, stereotactic body radiosurgery (SBRT) for tumors of the lungs, liver and spine, and brachytherapy (seed implantation). 

Surgical Oncology

VA Connecticut offers our veterans services by highly trained cancer surgeons from the following subspecialties:

  • urology
  • gastrointestinal surgery
  • thoracic (lung)
  • neurosurgery (brain)
  • ear nose and throat
  • and plastics.

Clinical trials

The VA Connecticut Cancer Center offers patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials either at VA CT, or by referral to outside facilities if an appropriate trial is not available here. General information about clinical trials is available to patients in the clinic area in the form of pamphlets and handouts. We are affiliated with the Yale Cancer Center.

We are affiliate member of the SWOG (Southwest Oncology Group), an NCI Cooperative Group, which allows us access to a wide variety of studies which we may conduct at our institution. Many of our investigators also conduct laboratory based research and health outcomes studies.

For further information please contact the Research Study Coordinator at (203) 932-5711, extension 5193 or call the VA Connecticut Cancer Center at extension 3421.

Information on clinical trials can also be found on the following websites:

  • www.cancer.gov - This is the National Cancer Institute website with general information about cancer and clinical trial information.
  • www.clinicaltrials.gov - ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and a result database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world and is a service of the National Institutes of Health.
  • www.cancer.org - This is the American Cancer Society website with general information about cancer and clinical trial information.

Cancer Survivorship Clinic

The Survivorship Clinic provides comprehensive medical care and psychosocial support to veterans who are cancer survivors and to their families. The goals of survivorship care are to perform surveillance for cancer recurrence and to manage complications of the cancer and its treatment through regular clinic visits and ongoing education and support. At the first visit the veteran will receive an individualized treatment summary and surveillance plan. During clinic visits, the veteran and the provider will review the treatment summary together and discuss how best to maximize the survivor's health, quality of life, and longevity through:

  • Individualized surveillance and screening guidelines
  • Wellness education tailored to cancer type and treatment history
  • Psychosocial support for survivors and their families
  • Healthy living recommendations

At the conclusion of the visit, patients leave the Survivorship Clinic with a written plan tailored to their specific needs. A copy of this plan is also sent to his or her primary care clinician. Referral can be made from the survivorship clinic for specialized services such as physical therapy, nutrition, weight loss programs (MOVE), smoking cessation clinics, mental health providers, and others. The veteran and his or her family also have access to complementary and integrative therapies and educational activities at the Survivorship Center.

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist - Oncology

The pharmacy service strives to be a leader in providing safe and effective patient-centered care to our veterans.  A clinical oncology pharmacist, John Szymanski, is available to all veterans and their families enrolled in the Hematology/Oncology clinic.  Pharmacy ensures veterans have a strong understanding of their drug therapy management including: treatment plan and process, drug safety, supportive care issues, and available resources. The following services are offered to all interested veterans receiving either intravenous or oral chemotherapy:

  • Chemotherapy education:  Educational session that reviews chemotherapy agents, side effects, premedication, and supportive care medications for the selected chemotherapy regimen.  For veterans receiving oral chemotherapy additional education on administration, disposal, handling, and storage will be provided.  Veterans will receive written drug information, treatment calendars, and emergency contact information.
  • Supportive care clinic:  Individualized care for veterans experiencing disease/treatment related side effects including: nausea/vomiting, pain, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, and other side effects.
  • Pharmacy/Nursing chemotherapy group:  Class led by a clinical oncology pharmacist and oncology nurse that discuss cancer treatment topics such as nausea/vomiting, pain, fatigue, drug safety/information, and patient requested topics.
  • Drug Interaction assessment:  Assessment of medications (prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal products) that the patient is taking and chemotherapy regimen to ensure patient safety.

The Oncology pharmacist can be reached at (203) 932-5711, extension 2644.

Palliative Care and Hospice

Palliative care is the provision of physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological care to veterans with advanced illness, and their families.  All enrolled veterans are entitled to palliative care services when appropriate.  Care emphasizes the management of pain and other physical symptoms, as well as psychosocial and spiritual assessment and intervention in veterans with advanced disease states.  For consideration of palliative care services at VA Connecticut Healthcare System, please discuss with your primary or oncology providers who can place a Palliative Care Consult.  For additional questions, please see our brochure. You can also contact us through the Geriatrics department at 203-932-5711 extension 2121.

Care Coordination

Our case managers help coordinate new patient visits to the clinic, arrange for home chemotherapy infusions and set-up home care including visiting nurses and hospice care. They also coordinate the weekly multidisciplinary tumor boards and track CT scans and other images that are suspicious for cancer using a unique program developed at VA Connecticut called the Cancer Care Tracking System (CCTS). Feel free to call Mirta Rosa, RN, at 203-932-5711 extension 5061.

Nutrition

There are several services offered to cancer patients. 

Nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian (RD) is offered depending on patient's therapeutic needs (high calorie, high protein) in the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic.  If you are interested in a one-on -ne appointment with the RD, please request a consult from your doctor.

There is also a Cancer Support group class that takes place each month in the Cancer center.  The class takes place on the second Wednesday of every month and is about one hour long.  It provides tips for enhancing food intake, discusses supplements, tips for managing some side effects from treatment and reviews overall healthy eating tips before, during and after cancer treatment.

A tube feeding may also be initiated on an outpatient basis.  The RD will assess the patient and provide nutrition recommendations.  Outpatient RDs can work with patients to develop a tube feeding schedule that can safely fit into their lifestyle as appropriate. 

If you would like to contact the outpatient dietitian at West Haven VA Connecticut, please call 203-932-5711 extension 7340.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Cancer is a chronic disease that may require adjustment to changes in physical functioning and ability to manage activities of daily living (ADLs). Rehabilitation professionals help to maximize independence and quality of life within medical status. The goal of Cancer Rehabilitation is to help cancer patients and survivors maintain, regain, and improve physical, psychosocial, and vocational functional functioning that has been impacted by their cancer and cancer therapies.

Physical and Occupational Therapy services may include:

  • Pain Management modalities including moist heat, cold therapy, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), and ultrasound treatments.
  • Education for patients and families in safe and proper use of assistive devices and adaptive ADL equipment to facilitate and encourage increased patient independence.
  • Equipment provision and training to facilitate safe visits or discharge to home.
  • Fall Prevention assessment and treatment for safety with transfers and ambulation.
  • Lymphedema assessment and treatment.
  • Home Exercise Program designed to maintain and improve range of motion, strength, and general endurance.

Ask your provider to send a consult to “Physical Therapy Onc” or “Occupational Therapy Onc” for any Rehabilitation Services. We can be reached at 203-932-5711, extension 2509 or 7250.  

Clinical Health Psychology

Cancer affects the whole person and often affects every part of a person's life – work, family, valued activities included. At VA Connecticut the Clinical Health Psychology service (CHP) takes a holistic, person-centered approach in working with veterans with cancer and their families. Clinical Health Psychology is focused on helping veterans improve their health and well-being. Whether veterans would like to improve their physical health by learning self-management and behavioral strategies, learn how to cope better with their illness, or develop new, healthy habits, CHP is here to support veterans with cancer. We can work with veterans individually, with their families, and in groups.

Ask your provider to send a consult to Health Psychology for any of our services.

We can be reached at 203-932-5711, extension 2303.

Clinical Health Psychology offers services to help with:

  • Coping with emotional reactions to cancer including depression and anxiety
  • Pain management
  • Stress management
  • Managing nausea and fatigue
  • Improving sleep
  • Developing healthy habits like quitting smoking or making healthy lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise
  • Using behavioral strategies to help veterans manage other health concerns like: diabetes, hypertension, or chronic pain problems
  • Providing support groups for veterans with cancer

Helpful Links:

Social Work Services

A dedicated social worker, Donna Doris, is available to all patients enrolled in the Hematology/Oncology clinic (203 932-5711, extension 3701). Ongoing social work case management is offered based on the Veteran's primary care team social worker, (ie: Firm A, Firm B, Newington or CBOC).  Social work offers comprehensive psychosocial evaluation and case management service. An effort to enhance the Veteran's social and psychological well-being is accomplished through a variety of modalities and interventions.

  • Entitlements: Assistance with securing benefits such as Social Security Disability, Medicare, or Title XIX.
  • Transportation:  Connecting veterans with transportation resources.  Referrals include VA sponsored travel offering chair car transportation to eligible Veterans; DAV and other Veteran's service organization's volunteer efforts, American Cancer Society and other non-profit organizations.  State and local paratransit services such as “My Ride”.
  • Disposition Planning:  Social work assists in arranging skilled nursing or rehabilitative care as well as inpatient/ outpatient Hospice care.
  • Patient and Family Education:  Identification and referral to services and programs available through the VA as well as community.  A number of educational brochures are available pertaining to Advance Directives, travel and other supportive services.
  • Supportive Counseling:  Veterans and their families receive counseling to assist with coping with diagnoses as well as other stress.  Recommendations or referrals are made to health psychology or mental hygiene as appropriate.
  • Support Group:  Social work participates in all oncology focused group series, facilitating group discussion and encouraging peer support. 
  • Other Resources:  Veterans who require early morning appointments, appointments scheduled for consecutive days or are traveling far distances can remain in a VA contracted hotel.

Chaplain Services

At VACT we approach Cancer and Cancer Care needs in a holistic way: that is to say on both a physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual level.   We believe these elements to be interconnected.  To that end, the Chaplains are available 24/7/365:

  • on site (203-932-5711 extension 2414),
  • by pager (via telephone operators),
  • or by consult (entered by medical staff).

Chaplain Service offers supportive assistance to the client and/or the significant other, as he/she/they negotiate the spiritual-emotional "ups and downs" of the diagnosis.  This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Support and encouragement during treatment  or hospital stay;
  • Conversations about the meaning of what is happening — or about the apparent lack of meaning;
  • Support for family and loved ones who wonder what they can do;
  • Bedside prayers;
  • Confidential pastoral discussion of personal and family issues;
  • Worship services in the Chapels;
  • Administration of the Sacraments;
  • Provision of religious tracts and prayer leaflets of all faiths, on request;
  • Assistance in observing specific religious holidays and rituals on request;
  • Pastoral and Spiritual Counseling;
  • Support when faced difficult decisions concerning such dilemmas as life support, “Living Wills” and “do not resuscitate” decisions.

Complementary and Integrative Therapy

The Cancer Center offers Complementary and Integrative Therapies at our Survivorship Center, located in Building 2, 5th floor, room # 5-186.

Services Include:

  • Meditation/Guided Imagery: Helps cancer patients and families learn to identify and reduce fears, negative feelings, and stress.
  • Reiki: Promotes healing by touch of the hands, allowing the flow of the energy from a limitless source to the participant.
  • Massage Therapy: Manipulates the muscles and soft tissues to promote relaxation, reduce pain, and improve blood flow to organs.
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): An approach that focuses on improving physical and emotional well-being for individuals suffering from side-effects of chemotherapy, pain, and/or emotional stress related to a cancer diagnosis.
  • Spirituality: Help patients and family members find a deeper meaning and experience a sense of personal growth during cancer treatment, while living with cancer, as a survivor, and while caring for a loved one with cancer.

For calendar of events - please click on the link below. All classes and sessions are free of charge. With questions and suggestions please call Clarice Humanick, APRN, 203-937-3421 or 203-931-5711x 4575.

Cancer Registry

A Cancer Registry is a database that stores information on every diagnosis of cancer. The data includes demographics, site and type of cancer, stage and treatment. Follow-up information related to the data is monitored annually, for the life of the Veteran, in order to ensure that surveillance care for their cancer occurs in a timely manner. The de-identified data from the registry is sent to the National Cancer Database and the Veterans Administration Central Cancer Registry. This data is used to help guide resource utilization decisions and to determine trends in cancer epidemiology, risk factors, and survival. Donna Connery CTR, CPC-H and Tammy Smith CTR are the Cancer Registrars for VA Connecticut.