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Support Services

When you're diagnosed and treated for cancer at Gundersen Health System, our professional team joins you and your family on a journey through physical and emotional highs and lows. Our COMPASS program—a multi-disciplinary network of staff and resources that extends beyond the best medicine—is here to help guide you through the ups and downs with compassionate, comprehensive support.

The following support services are here to help make life easier during the months ahead—whether you're living with, through or beyond cancer.

American Cancer Society Patient Navigator

Similar to a patient navigator, Gundersen's American Cancer Society (ACS) patient navigator is available to help you access support services that may make your cancer diagnosis feel less overwhelming. Gundersen is one of only three healthcare systems in Wisconsin to offer this free service full-time through the ACS.

Resources available are varied, and those that may be most fitting for you depend on several things, including where you are in your cancer journey and your type of cancer. All services, however, are free and available to all patients, regardless of where you primarily receive your care.

Support includes but is not limited to:

  • Help understanding a diagnosis
  • Assistance finding treatment and paying for it
  • Transportation to medical appointments through the "Road to Recovery" program
  • Lodging programs to ensure that if you must travel for your care you are still able to receive the best treatment possible
  • Guidance on managing side effects of treatment, including the programs "TLC: Hair Loss and Mastectomy Products" and "Look Good Feel Better"
  • Support groups in-person and online
  • Advice on how to talk to children about cancer
  • Information for caregivers and your support networks

Learn more about our ACS patient navigator or schedule an appointment by calling (608) 775-1359.

Behavioral Health

When you're diagnosed with cancer, you and your loved ones may feel a range of emotions—many of them new. For some people, the physical changes that accompany cancer can lead to or worsen emotional pain, and coping with these feelings can be challenging. When this happens, a behavioral health specialist can help you and/or your family deal with your emotions during this new and often unpredictable time.

Learn more or find a behavior health specialist near you.

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists partner with families and medical staff to make healthcare experiences, such as living with cancer, easier and more comfortable for children. They help families cope with understanding a diagnosis, treatment, side effects and other aspects of living with cancer. Child life specialists are trained to provide information in ways your child can understand, whether he or she is the person receiving cancer treatment or if it is a family member. They also are skilled in working with children and teens of all abilities.

To schedule an appointment with a child life specialist or learn more about how one may be able to help your family, please call (608) 775-2599.

Fertility Specialist

There are nearly half a million cancer survivors in the United States who are of reproductive age. While many cancer treatments have improved over the past several years to cause as few harmful side effects as possible, some forms of chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow and stem cell transplants and surgery can still cause temporary or permanent damage to your body's reproductive system.

In males, this often is a result of chemotherapy- or radiation-induced damage to sperm. In females, fertility can be impaired by treatments that damage immature eggs, affect your body's hormonal balance or injure reproductive organs.

If you are of reproductive age and are concerned about how treatment may affect your ability to have children in the future, before you begin cancer treatment it's worth considering your options for preserving fertility.

Learn more about fertility preservation before starting cancer treatment by calling (608) 775-2306.

Financial Support

Potential expenses after a cancer diagnosis can create anxiety, and understanding insurance coverage and benefits can be confusing. A financial advocate at Gundersen can help you and your family:

  • Access resources for your current and future expenses
  • Estimate future expenses
  • And review and understand hospital bills and insurance coverage, including deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Learn more or find a financial counselor at the Gundersen location nearest you.

Genetic Counseling

There are many factors that affect your probability of developing cancer, and, while it's impossible to know for sure whether you will develop cancer in your lifetime, our genetic counselors can assess your risk of inherited cancer.

If you have a family history of cancer, have been diagnosed with early onset, rare or multiple types of cancer or have a known genetic mutation that predisposes you to an increased risk of developing cancer, genetic assessment and testing can help you and your family better understand the role genetics plays in your risk of developing cancer and consider options to minimize risk.

Learn more about genetic counseling for cancer or schedule an appointment by calling (608) 775-2385.

Hospice

For cancer patients who have had a physician certify a life expectancy of six months or less and who are no longer undergoing active treatment, Gundersen provides adult hospice care and pediatric end-of-life care. Our goal is to enhance patients' quality of life through high-quality hospice intervention in the very place you and your family feels most comfortable and secure: your home.

Learn more about hospice care at Gundersen or request an appointment by calling (608) 775-8435.

Lymphedema Services

Lymphedema is a condition in which lymph fluid does not drain properly, causing swelling from a buildup of fluid in tissues. The condition is a common side effect of many cancer treatments, and occurs when the lymph system is damaged or blocked. Surgeries to remove lymph nodes with cancer, radiation therapy and cancers that block lymph vessels can all cause lymphedema.

Swelling often develops slowly over time, but may start during treatment or take years to appear.

Most people who develop cancer-related lymphedema experience soft, fluid-filled swelling near the location of their cancer or treatment site. The affected spot may also become inflamed. Eventually the area thickens, becomes fibrotic, or hardened, and the skin breaks down.

Regardless of when lymphedema occurs, it's important to seek medical care. Left untreated, lymphedema increases your risk for infection.

Learn more about lymphedema and whether you are at risk.

Nutrition

Consuming the right kinds of foods—and enough of them—during cancer treatment is important in helping you feel your best. When you're dealing with common side effects of treatment, however, doing so can be challenging.

A registered dietitian (or nutritionist) can work with you, your family and the rest of your cancer care team to manage your dietary needs, helping you keep a healthy body weight, maintain strength, keep body tissue healthy and decrease side effects both during and after treatment.

To schedule an appointment with a dedicated nutritionist in oncology, please talk with a member of your cancer care team or call (608) 775-3447.

Palliative Care

Palliative is specialized care for when you are struggling with cancer or other chronic medical conditions. Our specially trained doctors and nurses work with your primary healthcare team to help ease pain and other symptoms that affect your quality of life; provide physical, emotional, spiritual and social support; and listen to your questions and concerns to meet your unique needs.

Learn more about how palliative care can help you keep your symptoms under control by calling (608) 775-9336.

Patient Education Librarians

When you're diagnosed with cancer, it's important to have the information you need to make informed decisions about your care. While your cancer care team will work hard to make sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment options, many patients and their loved ones appreciate having additional information available they can digest at their own pace—outside of medical appointments.

Patient education librarians at Gundersen's libraries can help you locate materials you may find helpful in better understanding your unique diagnosis. Located in La Crosse and Onalaska, each library is home to a wide variety of books, CDs, DVDs, health magazines and much more.

Learn more about Gundersen's libraries or view the library catalog online.

Patient Navigator

Hearing you have cancer can be overwhelming. Our patient navigators are available to help make your journey with, through and beyond treatment as least stressful as possible. Patient navigators provide personal guidance as you move through treatment, helping you understand your diagnosis and treatment and payment options, find a support group, talk with family and friends about your diagnosis, and much more.

To schedule an appointment with a patient navigator or to speak with yours, call (608) 775-2385.

Pet Therapy

For nearly three decades, Gundersen has partnered with the Coulee Region Humane Society and its volunteers and their dogs to help make your appointments at Gundersen's Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders easier. When your day has been especially tough or stressful, a visit from a furry friend and his or her handler can bring a smile, comfort and a sense of relief.

To schedule a visit from a pet therapy team during your next treatment session, contact Gundersen Volunteer Services at (608) 775-3697.

Pharmacy and Home Medical Services

When you're going through cancer treatment, one of the last things you want to worry about is where to fill or pick up your prescriptions. Gundersen saves you time by offering convenient and affordable pharmacy locations throughout our system, including the Gundersen La Crosse East Building Pharmacy—just steps outside the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. Here, and at many of our other pharmacy locations, you can pick up your prescription/s before you even leave your doctor appointment.

Additonally, all our pharmacies are interconnected so you can use the location most convenient to you, whether closest to home, work or shopping.

Learn more about Gundersen's pharmacies and find the location nearest you.

Social Worker

Oncology social workers are professionals specially trained to help you navigate the many emotions and issues you may face during your cancer treatment and beyond.

At Gundersen, social workers are available—at no cost to you—to help bridge the gap between you and your clinicians, providing access to services and support you may need outside of the best medicine.

Your social worker can be an invaluable resource throughout your cancer journey, helping you:

  • Access information to better understand your diagnosis and treatments
  • Cope with the many emotions you may be experiencing
  • Consider treatment decisions
  • Understand social security benefits, disability benefits and insurance coverage, and obtain referrals to Social Security or the Aging and Disability Resource Center, as requested
  • Apply for programs that offer financial assistance
  • Find support groups and referrals for counseling
  • Talk with your cancer care team, family members, friends or co-workers about your diagnosis and treatment
  • Find information and resources on complementary medicine, as requested
  • Secure transportation to and from your medical appointments and temporary housing during your treatment
  • Establish home health care and hospice care

To begin working with a social worker at Gundersen or to speak with yours, call (608) 775-3454.

Spiritual Care

When undergoing treatment for cancer, it is important to not only care for your body but also for your mind and spirit. For this reason, Gundersen offers a variety of spiritual care services at all of its locations, and is committed to serving people of all faiths. Learn more about spiritual care at (608) 775-3620.

Support Groups

Gundersen offers a variety of support groups to help you and your loved ones deal with any challenges that may stem from a cancer diagnosis. Support groups provide a comfortable, open environment to share experiences and offer emotional support to others in similar situations.

Learn more about our cancer support groups, including meeting times and locations.

Survivorship program and resources

When you complete treatment for cancer, you may still have physical limitations due to the toll that it can take on your body. You may be learning to deal with chronic side effects and experiencing anxiety throughout this new stage in your life. We understand that this journey may be a difficult one, but with help from our Cancer Care team, together we can develop a plan that is right for you and set goals for your future.

As part of COMPASS, our Cancer Survivorship Program helps address the many physical, emotional and social challenges, and offers additional support as you find your new normal.

We hope to help you:

  • Transition from active treatment to life after treatment
  • Coordinate follow-up care
  • Find the tools you need to be well after cancer treatment
  • Establish or maintain healthy lifestyle choices

If you have completed cancer treatment, take this opportunity to schedule a one-time visit with a Survivorship provider to review your Cancer Treatment Summary and develop an individualized Survivorship Care Plan. To schedule an appointment or learn more, please talk with your oncologist for a referral.

Transportation

You should never have to decline cancer treatment because you do not have access to reliable transportation to and from medical appointments.

At Gundersen, numerous options exist to ensure you're able to attend your treatment sessions—whether they are resources to help you find financial help paying for gas or support for overnight accommodations to decrease the number of days you must commute to your treatment center.

Talk with your Gundersen social worker, patient navigator or American Cancer Society patient navigator to learn more about transportation options.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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