Montefiore Hospital using interactive Oncology to treat cancer patients

Photo of Montefiore’s BOLD (Bronx Oncology Living Daily) Buddy Group. Dr. Alyson Moadel-Robblee and Dr. Fernando Camacho - co-directors of the Albert Einstien Cancer Center’s interactive oncology program - are standing in the center
Photo Courtesy of Montefiore Health Systems

Doctors at Montefiore Hospital are looking to treat more than just the physical ailments of breast cancer patients through their integrative oncology program.

According to Dr.Alyson Moadel-Robblee, the co-director of the program, integrative oncology looks to treat the “mind, body and spirit” of the cancer patients.

Dr. Moadel-Robblee said the idea is to combine the program with whatever conventional treatment a patient is already undergoing.

Previously, said Moadel-Robblee, using methods like integrative oncology were called “alternative” treatments.

“We don’t use the term because it’s not either or,” said Moadel-Robblee, “It’s how can we use some of these evidence-based complementary therapies in conjunctions with conventional cancer care.”

Moadel-Roblee said one of the main goals of the program is to show patients there is life after a cancer diagnosis.

Interactive Oncology at Montefiore includes the BOLD (Bronx Oncology Living Daily) Program.

The program includes a wide range of access to certified therapists, mental health specialists, trained interns and volunteers.

Interactive Oncology also includes BOLD Wellness Workshops.

Among some of the workshops are Mind-Body Workshops – which include yoga, meditation and dance movement therapy, Creative Arts – which include a drum circle and jewelry making, Educational Programs – which include instructions on managing treatment side effects and going back to work, and Nutrition/Physical Activity, which include a walking group and dance fitness.

Moadel-Roblee stressed these workshops are free of charge and interested participants do not have to be a Montefiore patient.

These activities are available whether or not the person is a Montefiore patient.

Interactive Oncology at Montefiore also includes a BOLD Buddy Program.

This program pairs a cancer patient with a cancer survivor so the patient can get support from someone who has already been through the experience.

According to Moadel-Roblee, BOLD has 15 ‘buddies’ – many of whom are breast cancer survivors.

The buddy program is available for patients at Montefiore, said the doctor.

However, she added buddies are available by phone if a recently diagnosed non-Montefiore patient needs support.

“They just share their wisdom, their hope, their inspiration,” said Moadel-Roblee.

She added the buddies don’t necessarily give advice but the program allows the buddies to show patients “there is life after cancer, how they coped with it and where they are now.”

She also stressed that the program is multicultural and the services are offered in both English and Spanish.

Moadel-Roblee also discussed the hospital’s fight against the barriers that can sometimes get in the way of early detection.

For example, Roblee said some patients fear that the treatment – such as chemotherapy or the surgery to address the cancer – may be worse than the actual breast cancer.

She said the staff at Montefiore try to empower their patients to ask questions if they have concerns about treatment or medicine.

She added in those cases having professional counselors in addition to a buddy can be helpful.

Moadel-Robblee also left a message for patients fighting breast cancer. “The first thing I would say is you’re not alone,” she said. “Cancer is not a shameful thing.”

She added, “There is life after cancer and there’s lots of support and ways to get through this with a great support group.”

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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