Grants

"Chemoradiotherapy treatment can be devastating to patients with advanced cancer of the head and neck. We believe this project will make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors." Tamara Wasserman-Wincko, MS, CCC-SLP, Department of Otolaryngology, UPMC

A Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Enhance Clinical Care and Outcomes for Patients Receiving Chemoradiotherapy to the Head and Neck

Grant Application

Tamara Wasserman-Wincko, MS, CCC-SLP, and Jonas Johnson , MD, Chair, Department of Otolaryngology, UPMC, and Marci Nelson, PhD, RN, School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, Ed Harrison , MBA, Department of Otolaryngology, and Susan Calderbank , DMD, UPMC Presbyterian

Proposed Innovation

Patients who receive chemoradiotherapy for treatment of head and neck cancer can experience serious toxicity-related side effects that can impair swallowing, leading to aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, reduced range of motion, and dental problems.

These toxicities are life long and — without appropriate intervention at the onset — can worsen and impair quality of life. This project will enhance clinical care and outcomes by creating a Survivorship Clinic as a one-stop shop where patients can go for treatment by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

Improvements in Action

Through this pilot project, a Survivorship Clinic will operate weekly at the Eye & Ear Institute in Oakland with a team comprised of an ear, nose, and throat specialist, clinical care coordinator, speech-language pathologist, physical therapist, and dentist. Referrals to dietary and behavioral medicine specialists will be made as needed.

The goal of the clinic is to:

  • Provide patients with feeding tube and nutrition assistance to prevent ongoing weight loss.
  • Implement early dental and oral care to prevent long-term problems, including bone death.
  • Improve swallowing function and safety.
  • Improve range of motion in the neck, shoulder, and jaw areas.
  • Assist with coordination of care, including referrals and additional resources.
  • Provide patients with an individualized survivorship care plan.

Results – In Progress

Following the pilot project, a permanent Survivorship Clinic will be established. Providing patients with a centralized location that addresses questions and problems that arise during the course of treatment will ensure they get the care they need to improve and maintain function. Ultimately, the goal is to help improve the quality of life of cancer survivors during and after chemoradiotherapy treatment.