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Services & Support

We have services and support programs to help you through your cancer care. Resources in the community are also available.

The BC Cancer Agency offers services and support programs to help you through your cancer care. See Services for links to individual service pages and Patient & Family Counselling for information on counselling and support programs. 

Our resources

Our services at a glance

BC Cancer Agency Library

The BC Cancer Agency library offers library and information services to patients, their families, members of the public, and health-care professionals.

The library will help you find information on: cancer treatment, clinical trials, coping with cancer, information for children, cancer information in other languages, relaxation techniques, etc. Books and audiovisuals (DVDs, videos, CDs) can be freely borrowed for four weeks at a time. Library materials can be mailed to borrowers outside the lower mainland with free return mailing labels.

The library can also help you find reliable and accurate internet sites on your condition and treatments.

CAMEO 

Complementary Medicine Education & Outcomes Research Program

You may be considering using therapies beyond conventional cancer treatments to improve your health. These types of therapies will be referred to as complementary and alternative medicine. Complementary therapies are products and practices used along with conventional medical treatment.

Alternative therapies are products and practices that are used instead of conventional treatments. Some examples of complementary and alternative medicines are: natural health products (herbs, vitamins, and herbal supplements), physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Aboriginal medicine, and healing touch.

How to make safe complementary and alternative therapy choices:

  • Ask your doctor about using complementary and alternative medicine while you are in treatment. In many cases it is preferred that you stop your complementary and alternative therapies while you are undergoing treatments for cancer. For example, grapefruit juice can slow down or speed up how your body uses a chemotherapy drug. This means you could end up with a higher or lower level in your body than desired.
  • Think about your goals for using the complementary and alternative therapies. Does the therapy have the ability to help you reach your goals? Remember that goals may be physical, emotional, and/or spiritual. Be careful of therapies that claim to “cure” your cancer.
  • Find out about the risks and benefits of the therapy. Think about the research behind the therapy. How trustworthy is the information given? It is important to balance and consider what is known, as well as what is not known about a therapy. Also, make sure to consider what a safe dose of the therapy is. More is not always better!
  • Check out the training, credentials, and experience of the complementary and alternative health care provider. As well, the costs of using complementary and alternative therapies are in many cases not covered in your medical insurance plan. Consider whether you can afford to participate in therapy.
  • What complementary and alternative services are available in your local community? BC Cancer Agency centres and local hospitals may offer mind-body and exercise therapies. Don’t forget to also ask to see the Registered Dietician or Pharmacist if you have questions about your diet or the safety of a natural health product.

Once you have made your decision about taking a complementary or alternative therapy, it is important that you tell your oncologist and family doctor. Knowing all the therapies you are using allows health care providers to provide care that is complete and safe. It is also important to have a plan about how you will monitor your use of a complementary or alternative therapy to see if it is meeting your goals and not causing any bad side effects. The Complementary Medicine Education & Outcomes Research Program (CAMEO) is a joint research project of the University of British Columbia School of Nursing and the BC Cancer Agency. CAMEO provides evidence-based information about complementary medicine to patients, their family and support persons, and oncology healthcare providers through education courses and lectures, published documents, and individual decision-support consultations.

Interpreters

If requested an interpreter may be booked by Information and Admitting when they contact you to set up your first appointment if available.

Nutrition

If you are having difficulty eating, drinking or if you are losing weight during treatment, ask your nurse or doctor to make a referral to the dietitian. Nutrition is important in cancer care to help reduce treatment side effects and to help you maintain your weight. A registered dietitian is available, by appointment, for counselling Monday to Friday. Advice can also be given by telephone.

Patient & Family Counselling Services

It is natural to experience fear, anger, helplessness or other distressing feelings when you or a family member is faced with a diagnosis of cancer and its treatment. Professionally trained counsellors in Patient and Family Counselling Services are available to speak with you and to assist you throughout the course of your illness. Patient and Family Counselling counsels patients, caregivers, couples and families and offers group support programs. This can include discussion and planning regarding how to inform your loved ones, assist with treatment decision making, as well as palliative and end of life care and concerns. Assistance and information about transportation, community services, interpreters, financial assistance, prescription costs and other practical resources are also available.

Pain & Symptom Management/Palliative Care

All cancer patients, including those who may be cured, are welcome to contact Pain and Symptom Management/Palliative Care. Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems - physical, psychosocial, and spiritual. 

Patients come to the clinic to improve pain control, cope with other physical problems related to cancer (for example; severe nausea, shortness of breath or fatigue), and they come for help with emotional and social concerns that come with living with cancer.

What is provided:

  • Review of your physical, emotional and social concerns
  • Personal treatment plan, which may include medication and nonmedicinal support
  • Members of the team meet with patients and/or family
  • Referral to community services and resources
  • Information about pain and symptom management
  • Information about Advance Care Planning

Usually oncologists initiate referrals, but we accept referrals from other BC Cancer Agency staff, family doctors, and other specialists, and directly from patients and family members.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy provides a full range of services for both inpatients and outpatients. Outpatient cancer treatment medications are provided free of charge. Pharmacy also provides medications for intravenous administration and for patients admitted to the inpatient unit. Medication counselling, medication review, and drug information services are also provided for both outpatients and inpatients. 

Prevention Programs

Prevention Programs take an evidence-based approach to educating about healthy lifestyle choices related to cancer prevention. We offer cancer prevention information to patients, their families and the general public, as well as run programs such as Healthy Living Schools, Sun Safe Daycares, and Stop Smoking Before Surgery.

  • Hi 5 Living is our interactive, award-winning, youth-oriented site.

For cancer patients, their families, and the general public, focusing on the five main modifiable risk factors for cancer is important for overall health. For those cancers that are preventable, the preventable risk factors are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Poor diet
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Sun- and tanning-bed damage

For those having experienced cancer that are at risk for a second primary cancer, as well as those who have never had cancer, making lifestyle choices based on these modifiable risk factors can be helpful, as can using our screening programs. Prevention is the very first stage in the continuum of cancer care that BC Cancer Agency prides itself on providing.


Support Groups

Patients and family members can attend support groups offered in any of the Lower Mainland cancer centres. Please contact the Patient and Family Counselling Services for more information.

Telehealth

Telehealth is the use of technology to provide health care services. Videoconferencing is one example. Arranged from a private location in your community, it enables you to see and talk to a health care professional at the cancer centre without having to be in that centre. You are able to ‘meet’ with your health care professional using a television screen, video camera, and microphone that operate over a secure network. This videoconference may mean you do not have to travel to the cancer centre for all appointments.

This service is available for out-of-town patients in many communities throughout the province. For further information about telehealth services and to see if they are appropriate for you, please discuss with your health care professional.

Resources in the community

CancerConnection

Canadian Cancer Society

CancerConnection puts you in touch with someone who has been there. When you call or register online you’ll be matched with a volunteer who has lived through a similar cancer experience, including the type of cancer, the course of treatment, and similarities in lifestyle. This trained volunteer will listen, share their experience about living with cancer and provide emotional support. All conversations are confidential and allow you to talk to someone who really understands what you are going through. CancerConnection is available to people anywhere in Canada in multiple languages and at any stage of their cancer journey. 

Email: cancerconnection@bc.cancer.ca

Cancer Information Service

Canadian Cancer Society

The Cancer Information Service (CIS) offers general information about cancer as well as services available for cancer patients in communities throughout the province. It is open 9am-6pm Monday to Friday. Service in Chinese is available Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

Canadian Red Cross

Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP)

The Red Cross loans out basic health equipment, including wheelchairs, bath aids, toileting aids, walking aids, and other aids to daily living. Referral from a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist or occupational therapist is needed for all equipment loans.

  • For details, depot location, operation hours, and availability of equipment, visit: www.redcross.ca and follow the links to the HELP Program

HealthLink BC

British Columbians have trusted health information at their fingertips with HealthLink BC at www.healthlinkbc.ca

On their website, you can learn about health topics, check your symptoms, or find health services and resources near you. Call 8-1-1 for symptom advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.

Integrative Medicine Services

Memorial Sloan Kettering

This website includes an easy-to-search database of natural health products and information on individual complementary and alternative therapies.

Visit: https://www.mskcc.org/

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