New mental health help for cancer patients

Helping cancer patients with emotional health

DENVER -- As cancer patients fight a physical battle, their mental health is just as important.

A new program at the University of Denver aims to help cancer patients with their emotional struggles throughout their treatment.   Known as the Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence (COPE), this is a first-of-a-kind program to offer specialized cancer counseling to students.

The need will be great. Some estimate the number of cancer cases will double by 2050. In addition, one in two men; and one in three women will get cancer.

"There's so many psychological issues that affect cancer patients and all of their loved ones--things like depression, anxiety, difficulty in changes with their body image, relationship problems," said director Dr. Nicole Taylor. "A lot of cancer centers are actually struggling to offer enough support to meet the needs, so they're pretty short staffed in a lot of places, which is where we're hoping to meet some of that need."

Amy Wanninger is thriving today, but three years ago, she was getting treatment for stage-IV melanoma.

She had a team of cancer doctors to take of her physical health.

But mentally, she needed some help too.

"I think it was primarily after I was done with active treatment that I had a moment to kind of stop, take a breath and assess where I was. That's when I realized this is maybe a little bit more I can do own," she said.

She looked for cancer specific counseling, but help was hard to find. She feels a program like this will offer hope.

“I started looking, and kept looking, and it was harder than I anticipated," she said.

Recently, COPE was given a $1.5 million commitment by an anonymous donor.

Counseling is available on a sliding fee scale. Medicaid is accepted.

For more information, contact COPE at (303) 871-7701 or click here.

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