We want to provide information that will help our patients prepare for their first appointment at Smilow Cancer Hospital and the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Centers. Our goal is to make sure our patients are fully informed about their treatment and comfortable asking their care team questions if they are unsure of their treatment plan or need help with any issues arising from your cancer treatment. The physicians, nurses, and support staff at Smilow Cancer Hospital are committed to easing the worry of our patients’ cancer treatment and are here to offer the support they need.
In order for us to provide the best treatment plan for each of our patients, we need to clearly and completely understand their medical history and the treatment they may have had to date. A nurse coordinator and/or intake specialist will contact patients by phone to assist in gathering the necessary information prior to their first visit and to let them know what to expect when they arrive.
It is important for patients to gather the following items prior to their first appointment:
Medical Records & Written Reports
Our intake specialists will help to facilitate the transfer of records before the appointment.
A List of Current Medications
This includes all prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, alternative medications, and supplements. If preferred, patients can bring the original medication containers with them to the visit.
This includes X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, and current mammography. It is important that our physicians review the actual films in addition to the written reports. Our intake specialists will help to facilitate the transfer of records before the appointment.
Pathology Slides and Reports
If someone has been diagnosed with cancer, then a pathologist has already made a diagnosis by reviewing a biopsy or tumor specimen. It is beneficial to our patients for Smilow Cancer Hospital to confirm this diagnosis by reviewing the slides. Our intake specialist will facilitate the transfer of the slides to Smilow.
Insurance ID Card
Patients should notify their insurance company prior to the visit. The insurance company may require a formal referral from the referring physician, and they may give patients a formal referral authorization to ensure that the cost of the visit is covered. A patient registrar will contact each patient prior to the visit to obtain all contact and insurance information. Any co-pays will be collected at the time of the appointment.
It is always a good idea for patients to bring a list of questions to ask the physician. In addition, we encourage patients to bring a family member or significant other to help take notes and ask questions. The nurse coordinator can help create a list of questions in preparation for the visit.
This includes legal documents like a living will and appointment of a healthcare proxy. If you have advance directives already in place, please bring physical copies to your appointment so that we can scan them into your chart. If you do not have existing advance directives but would like to learn more about how to complete them, please refer to our Advance Care Planning section for more information and helpful resources. We encourage all of our patients to have advance directives on file – regardless of health status.
Interpreter services are available at no charge, but need to be coordinated prior to the appointment. We ask that patients advise the intake specialist if they would benefit from this service. We prefer to have an interpreter available to patients in addition to the support of their family members.
Patients should notify patient registration 24 hours in advance if they need to reschedule their appointment. If assistance is needed before the appointment, contact 1-855-4-SMILOW.
Oncology Pharmacy Services
Our oncology pharmacy team serves as a key member of all multidisciplinary cancer care teams across the Smilow Care Centers and Smilow Cancer Hospital. We work collaboratively with doctors and other health care providers to ensure that our patients receive safe, effective, and timely cancer care. We provide personalized medication therapy and services to support all of our patients’ medication needs. Our team consists of oncology pharmacists who are trained in the care of patients with cancer and cancer-related illnesses, as well as certified pharmacy technicians who serve as experts in compounding of chemotherapy and other medications.
Patients are commonly taking numerous medications for their cancer or any other chronic condition(s). Oncology pharmacists, at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Smilow Cancer Care Centers, will educate patients and help them manage any expected side effects of cancer treatment.
Medication regimens can be complex and confusing, and our pharmacy team can provide guidance on how to take these medications, such as what time to take them, whether to take them on a full or empty stomach, and whether it is okay to take different medications together. Ask your physician or nurse to speak with our team to learn more.
Specialty Pharmacy Services
Specialty Pharmacy Services are designed to ensure access to specialty medication needs. Specialty medications are those used to treat cancer that can be complicated to manage and which may require coordination of care.
Benefits of Specialty Pharmacy Services:
24/7 access to specialty pharmacy staff and clinical pharmacists for questions and concerns
We work closely with all care providers to create the safest, most effective treatment program for each patient.
Our specialty pharmacy technicians will work to ensure delivery of monthly refills with all additional supplies that may be needed.
We will handle all the details for shipment and delivery of specialty medications.
We offer education and support from specialty pharmacists with years of experience.
We work closely with patients and their insurance company to navigate the insurance process.
We provide access to language assistance services for more than 15 languages.
Medication Assistance Program
Launched in 2010, the Medication Assistance Program (MAP) at Smilow Cancer Hospital assists patients with high out-of-pocket costs for their chemotherapy and cancer care medications. This includes medication replacement, in which pharmaceutical companies provide medicine free of charge; and co-pay assistance, in which foundations or institutions cover a patient’s co-pays. MAP coordinators collaborate across the Yale New Haven Health System to enroll patients in manufacturer- and foundation-funded medication assistance programs. This allows cancer patients to focus on their physical and mental health, rather than on the burden of their medical expenses.
A diagnosis of cancer can be stressful to patients and their families. Smilow Cancer Hospital has licensed clinical social workers available to help patients manage their feelings and concerns throughout their cancer care, especially during this challenging time. In addition, our social workers also facilitate many support groups available virtually for your participation. Support groups provide the opportunity to receive emotional and educational support and to talk with others who are undergoing similar treatment or who have successfully completed treatment.
We also work with parents to help children of any age as they come to understand their parents’ illness and treatment. We can help clarify how children cope with their parents’ diagnosis and, if further support is necessary, offer guidance on how to obtain it. Some resources include:
At Smilow Cancer Hospital, we respect the unique philosophies, spiritualties, and religions of our patients, caregivers, and staff. Board Certified chaplains are available 24/7 in the hospital, during business hours at our York Street campus infusion centers, and in our palliative care clinic. Chaplains provide support for those seeking peace in the midst of their cancer journey, those searching for meaning and purpose when cancer has changed so much, those who want to discover what they believe after their diagnosis, and those who would like their faith to play a bigger role in their cancer treatment. Chaplains also assist with goals of care discussions, advanced directive documents, and provide specific rituals and ceremonies including Roman Catholic sacraments. All are welcome in our chapel at York Street campus for prayer, worship, meditation, and a quiet moment.
Smilow Cancer Hospital Supportive Care Access Program
At Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center we recognize that no two cancer journeys are alike. A robust, multidisciplinary team is available to ensure support systems are in place to assist patients in navigating their cancer treatment. A variety of programs are available before, during, and after active treatment that go beyond physical healing. Our Supportive Care Referral Coordinators help patients and their family members navigate the services available with an individualized approach.
Who can benefit?
All patients with cancer who are in active treatment or in a survivorship stage, as well as family members, may utilize our Smilow Supportive Care Referral Coordinators. The coordinators ensure that all patients and family members are informed of the services they may utilize while they navigate their cancer journey.
How is it accessed?
Smilow Supportive Care Referral Coordinators are available on-site Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Resource Center on the first floor of Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. To inquire about services, or for a preliminary discussion about the supportive care offerings, you may also reach the Referral Coordinators at 203-200-4636 or by email at SmilowSupportiveCare@ynhh.org
Smilow Supportive Care Referral Coordinators act as a liaison for patients and family members for guidance and information surrounding the supportive care programs at Smilow Cancer Hospital and our Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Centers. The coordinators screen patients for appropriate referral to the following supportive care programs:
Genetic Counseling and Screening
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Oncology Medical Home
An Oncology Medical Home is a care delivery system that is physician-led, directing a team to provide patient and family support through the patient care journey of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care. This physician-led team is primarily responsible for care coordination that enhances patient care experiences, clinical outcomes, and quality of life.
What is Care Coordination?
Care coordination involves the following:
Ensuring communication between the practice team, primary care physicians, specialty providers, and outside agencies, such as home care, rehabilitation, support services, and community resources.
Educating patients about their diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, and support services.
Providing symptom triage support, which facilitates easy access to the practice and its providers, in service of addressing patient health concerns quickly to avoid emergency department visits.
Providing support through the patient care journey, including initial diagnosis, treatment plan, symptom management, survivorship, and supportive care.
Call us first for any concerns or health issues related to your care.
What can patients expect?
Oncology Medical Home specialists will provide information on how and when to contact the medical oncologist, including on evenings and weekends, with issues that need to be addressed. A contact phone number—a 24/7 or alternative direct line for your care team—will be provided at your first visit. This number is for after-hours service and care (e.g., holidays and weekends). Patients will also be made aware of their care team members (e.g., medical oncologist, APP, navigator, care coordinator, social worker).
When should patients contact us?
Patients should contact us if they’re experiencing any urgent or routine symptoms.
Where should patients go for care?
Care related to diagnosis and treatment
Symptoms related to diagnosis and treatment (e.g., fever, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, pain control)
Medication refills prescribed by the medical oncologist
Primary Care Physician
Annual wellness visits
Managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, including related medication refills
Ear, sinus, or urinary tract infections
Chest pain or difficulty breathing
Broken bones or dislocated joints
Fainting, change in mental status, or slurred speech
Head or eye injuries
Weakness and/or numbness in one side
Responsibilities of the patient and the practice
Provide medical history and current medical information for effective care
Provide contact information for primary care physician(s) and other specialty care team members to ensure communication and care coordination
Participate in health care decision-making
Communicate to the assigned care team early and often with any health issues or care concerns
Provide health benefits information and updates
Notification of the need to reschedule or cancel an appointment
Provide respectful patient care; patients are recognized as an individual with specific needs and preferences
Supply information to support patient health care decision-making
Provide financial counseling services, which include estimates for out-of-pocket expenses for any new therapy that is offered
Provide equitable and comprehensive team-based care
Allow 24/7 availability to a provider for care needs
Provide missed appointment policy and expectations for rescheduling and canceling appointments
Deliver high-quality, safe, and effective care
Patient & Family Resource Center
The Patient and Family Resource Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital exists to provide a place where patients and families can obtain information on cancer-related topics as well as hospital and community services, all within a serene, comfortable setting. The Resource Center provides computer workstations with internet access for research purposes or personal business. A lending library offers hundreds of titles containing current information on cancer-related topics, as well as a selection of relaxation/meditation CDs. In addition, the Resource Center is the site of regularly scheduled events, including educational programs, drop-in discussions with hospital staff, and creative activities workshops.
Visitors can browse the collection of cancer-related reading material. Titles include popular releases and cover everything from personal stories about overcoming cancer to science, philosophy, and children's literature.
In cancer research, a clinical trial is a study conducted with cancer patients, usually to evaluate a new treatment. Each study is designed to answer scientific questions and to find new and better ways to help patients. As Connecticut’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Yale Cancer Center physicians have the unique ability to provide patients the most current therapies to treat cancer at Smilow Cancer Hospital locations across the region.
With the development of the Early Phase Clinical Trial Program at Yale Cancer Center there are over 50 Phase I trials open, and that number is growing. Early phase trials allow clinicians to look for new causes for drug effectiveness or drug resistance, and also assess how the new drug affects the body, how it fights cancer, and how it should be administered.
With any new treatment, there may be risks, as well as possible benefits. There may also be some risks that are not yet known. Clinical trials help us find out how safe and effective a promising new treatment is for patients. Many new treatments are designed based on what has worked in the past in efforts to improve care. You may be interested in or asked if you’d like to enter a trial, and it is important to learn as much as possible about a clinical trial. Your oncologist will explain the trial you are eligible to participate in. Please ask as many questions as you would like so you fully understand the trial before deciding to participate.
How is my privacy protected?
The study team conducting research must follow rules and laws that protect your safety. Many of these are mandated by the federal government. Every clinical trial in the United States is approved and monitored by a committee whose job is to ensure your safety. At Yale, these committees are part of the Human Research Protection Program, which ensures that Yale studies are conducted ethically. All trials also follow a study plan that states exactly what researchers will do in the study.
When you undergo treatments or tests at Yale, your medical records, leftover blood, and/or tissue may be used for research purposes unless you opt out. You may opt out at any time by calling 1-877-Y-studies (1-877-978-8343).
What are the different phases of a clinical trial?
Phase 1 trials test new drugs in humans for the first time.
The purpose of these trials is to assess the safety of the new drug and find the highest tolerated dose.
Phase 1 trials also assess how the new drug affects the human body, how it fights cancer, and how it should be given (i.e., the schedule and route).
If the objectives of a phase 1 trial are met, a phase 2 clinical trial is done to further assess safety and effectiveness of the new drug to treat certain types of cancer.
Phase 3 clinical trials compare the safety and efficacy of the new treatment with the current standard treatment.
If the new treatment is as effective or more effective than the current standard, it may be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be marketed as a new cancer therapy.
Phase 4 trials further assess safety over a longer period of time in a larger population of patients.
Who can join clinical trials?
Adults 18 years or older
Patients with cancer that are otherwise healthy
Those who meet specific eligibility criteria as determined by each trial
We will assess your performance status, past medical history, labs and radiographic imaging. Having serious health conditions, aside from cancer, may preclude you from participating. Having more than one type of cancer at one time, or a recent history of second cancer, may also preclude you from participating.
Deciding to take part in a clinical trial
May work to improve your cancer with fewer side effects than standard cancer treatment
A chance to take part in research, helping to improve future cancer treatment
Possible increase in financial costs due to increased visits
Higher time burden due to increased visits
Unknown side effects of new drugs
Participation is at your discretion; you can always withdraw from a study at any time.
Eligibility to start treatment is at the discretion of your doctor and those running the clinical trial.
Treatment schedule is determined by the trial; flexibility may be limited
Advance Care Planning
Advanced Care Planning is the act of discussing your health care preferences and values with those you care about and documenting those decisions using specific forms. Having these preferences legally documented is important to help guide your health care team and loved ones if you are ever too ill to make decisions or speak for yourself. We encourage all patients to participate in advance care planning.
Who needs to engage in advance care planning?
Anyone over 18—regardless of health status—should engage in advance care planning. Life is unpredictable, and your loved ones should be prepared to honor your wishes.
There are two main types of advanced care legal documents:
Healthcare Proxy Form: This document is for appointing someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Your health care proxy should be someone familiar with your values and wishes.
Living Will: This document helps your family and health care team better understand what type of medical care you would like to receive if you cannot speak for yourself. A Living Will outlines which life-sustaining measures you would prefer, which you would not, and when you or your proxy would make those decisions.
Why is advance care planning important?
Even though it can be overwhelming to process, thinking about and sharing your preferences and values for how care should occur in the event of a life-threatening situation is critically important. When you participate in advance care planning, you are helping to ensure your wishes are respected if you are unable to speak for yourself. By documenting these wishes, you are also supporting your loved ones if a difficult situation ever arises. Throughout your life journey, you can keep these documents up to date with your preferences as they may change over time. Discuss advance care planning further with your health care provider.
Below are sample forms:
The Smilow Hospitalist Service cares for hematology and oncology inpatients at Smilow Cancer Hospital.
A Hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the care of hospitalized patients. The Smilow Hospitalists are board certified/board eligible physicians in Internal Medicine and/or Hematology and Oncology. The Hospitalists dedicate all their time to inpatient clinical care.
Your Smilow Hospitalist physician works very closely with your primary hematologist and oncologist, collaborating on treatment decisions and follow up care planning. You may also meet a consulting hematology/oncology expert who will further support your inpatient care.
The mission of the Smilow Hospitalist Service is to provide the highest quality evidence-based inpatient care with empathy and kindness.
Side effects from cancer and its treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation, can affect how you eat. Decreased food intake can be serious. It can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, loss of muscle strength, and an increased risk of infection. Weight loss can also interfere with your treatments.