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AHN Launches 24/7 Cancer Help Line, Offering Support and Information to any Cancer Patient

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute has launched AHN Cancer Help Line, a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week cancer information line staffed by AHN oncology nurses and open to all patients regardless of their health care or insurance provider.

By calling 412-NURSE4U (412-687-7348) cancer patients and their loved ones who have questions or just need a sympathetic ear will reach a nurse trained in oncology practice who can advise them on a variety of issues from treatment side effects to clinical trial enrollment.

AHN joins several leading national cancer treatment centers in offering this important public service.

Other institutions that have launched 24/7 cancer information lines include Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the American Cancer Society, the Cleveland Clinic, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hutchinson’s line receives about 250 inquiries daily.

“AHN Cancer Help Line exemplifies AHN Cancer Institute’s approach to care: skilled, compassionate, individualized and easily accessed,” said David Parda, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “When our patients have questions in the middle of the night, we want to be there to help. The less stress and difficulty patients experience while fighting cancer and the better informed they are, the greater their chances of completing their treatment and having a successful outcome.”

Studies show that cancer patients often do not understand basic information about their cancer diagnosis and its treatment. For example, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice found that nearly half of patients didn’t know the stage of their cancer, and 25 percent did not know if they were in remission. Another study, in the journal Cancer, found that a quarter of cancer patients did not understand their goals of treatment.

Topics that may be discussed on the Cancer Help Line include interpretation of diagnosis and test results, information specific to the patient’s particular type of cancer, treatment options, side effects, clinical trials the patient may be eligible for, referrals to support groups and nutritional information.

Even the most savvy health care consumers may need help interpreting the huge variety of information available about cancer via social or traditional media, or the Internet. Cancer is a complex disease, comprising hundreds of different types of cancers, and new knowledge and treatments are emerging with accelerating frequency.  For these patients, AHN’s Cancer Help Line can help them ferret out the most accurate and useful information.

Some questions can only be answered by a doctor, and nurses on the Cancer Help Line are trained to help patients on how to broach difficult questions with their physician. Cancer Help Line does not replace a physician’s care, and callers will be referred back to their oncologist whenever appropriate. For AHN patients, the nurses communicate with doctors on their patients’ concerns, ensuring a seamless, integrated care experience.

Cancer Help Line nurses make referrals to physicians only on the patient’s request.

AHN Cancer Institute offers patients expert, responsive care that is multidisciplinary, compassionate and personalized. Patients calling Cancer Help Line will experience this kind of care, offered by nurses with special training and certifications in oncology nursing.

Karen Schwaderer, RN, BSN, OCN, Manager Oncology Navigation Program, Gina Bianchin, MS, Director, Oncology Services, Crystal Costanza Ross, BA, RN, program director, AHN Cancer Institute, and Anna Vioral, PhD, Med, RN, OCN, BMTCN, the Institute’s Director of Oncology Practice and Program Development, played key roles in the development of the Cancer Help Line and will facilitate care within the AHN Cancer Institute.

AHN offers cancer care at 50 clinical locations throughout the region, and plans to add five more community cancer centers over the next two years, including facilities in Monroeville, Beaver County, Butler County, Erie and locations still to be determined.   The Network also broke ground recently on a state-of-the-art Academic Cancer Center at Allegheny General Hospital that will serve as the hub of integration, innovation, collaboration, cancer clinical trials and complex cancer care.

It’s all part of a $225 Million investment to expand cancer care in our region, including AHN Cancer Institute’s expanding collaboration with the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine Kimmel Cancer Center, including streamlined access to second opinions and hundreds of clinical trials.