Traveling the Road to Wellness

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Matthew Ballo, M.D., is a radiation oncologist at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in the Bay Area. His passion for survivorship and post-treatment care led to the creation of the Road to Wellness program in 2007. Today the program is open to breast cancer and prostate cancer patients treated at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in the Bay Area. MD Anderson's main campus offers a number of programs and clinics for survivors, but the Bay Area location is the first of the institution's regional care centers to offer this service.By

By: Matthew Ballo, M.D.

When I began training at MD Anderson I observed that fatigue was a common problem in patients receiving radiation. Since there were few active interventions to address the issue at the time, I pledged that when I moved my practice to the Bay Area, I would work to find diet and exercise solutions to relieve fatigue.

As the idea of the program began to grow, it became apparent that fatigue was only one of several quality of life issues that patients faced. I started thinking more globally about issues such as stress management and smoking cessation and soon realized this program fit under the emerging discipline of survivorship.

In 2007 we began the Road to Wellness program, which offers lifestyle rehabilitation programs to transition patients from active cancer care to survivors who are preparing for life post-treatment.

Cancer survivors have unrecognized and untreated aftereffects of cancer treatment, so we put two and two together and created a program that addresses fatigue and the global issues of quality of life in cancer patients undergoing treatment. This program prepares patients for survivorship by equipping them with the tools necessary to be healthy cancer survivors.

The Road to Wellness is a five-step program:

  1. Initial consultation. Studies show that the majority of patients prefer to undergo lifestyle counseling at the time of diagnosis rather than after treatment.
  2. Consultation with an exercise physiologist. A tailored exercise regimen is created for each patient based on cardiovascular and resistance testing.
  3. Nutritional consultation. Patients meet with an MD Anderson registered dietician and undergo counseling regarding specific diet modifications endorsed by the World Cancer Research Fund for reducing cancer risks.
  4. Meeting with a social worker. A social worker performs a needs assessment and teaches stress management skills. Patients may be directed to support groups or other resources in the community that they can attend.
  5. Smoking cessation, if needed. MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program is a comprehensive tobacco-cessation program that may consist of face-to-face and telephone behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement therapies and tobacco-treatment prescription medications.

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