New agreement raises visibility of Jodie Matta-Dillinger Cancer Resource Center
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 1:36 a.m.
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The American Cancer Society is providing its support to the Jodie Matta-Dillinger Cancer Resource Center at UPMC McKeesport.
In turn, an agreement announced Tuesday will raise the visibility of that center, whose services are likely to go far beyond the wigs and turbans it provides for those undergoing chemotherapy.
“We can contact (ACS) to try to get some additional support,” said center director of patient and community services Geoffrey Clauss.
Jacquie Sledge, health initiatives representative for the society's East Central Division in Pittsburgh, said that support can extend to nutrition, early detection of cancer, what to do during cancer, what to do after surviving cancer and family support.
The center was established in memory of Matta-Dillinger, who was diagnosed in 2000 with inoperable glioblastoma and died in 2001. It opened in 2009 with the support of family members including Matta-Dillinger's mother.
“Flo Matta has been so compassionate to the Look Good Feel Better participants,” Sledge said, noting the program deals with the outside — including assistance with makeup, skin care and redrawing eyebrows — and the inside.
“They fellowship with the cancer patients through that program,” Sledge said.
“We have the largest number of patients for Look Good Feel Better in Allegheny County,” Clauss said. That includes both patients who use UPMC's cancer services in McKeesport and those served elsewhere.
“They do not need to be a patient to come here,” Clauss said.
Meanwhile, there will be a better variety of toupees for men and wigs for women.
“We have an independent source that the Matta family contacted some time back (for wigs),” Clauss said. “Through the American Cancer Society we can contact them and request a certain type of wig a woman wants.”
“The American Cancer Society recruits licensed cosmetologists,” Sledge said. “We train them and they volunteer to facilitate the Look Good Feel Better program.”
The Matta-Dillinger center provides “dignity robes.”
“Radiation and oncology (departments) have asked for 70 for the year,” Clauss said. “We gave them 40 so far in four months.”
Those robes are processed through a cut-and-sew studio in East Liberty where people volunteer one day per month.
There are many who need the services the center has to offer. The Pittsburgh area has about as many cancer patients as the Philadelphia area — but with a far smaller population.
For instance, Clauss said, in 2010 there were 10,206 breast cancer cases reported in Pennsylvania, with 1,093 in Philadelphia County and 1,106 in Allegheny County.
Deaths from breast cancer totaled 2,071 statewide in 2010, 251 in Philadelphia and 200 in Allegheny County.
The McKeesport center is one of 28 locations involved in the American Cancer Society free wig program in Western Pennsylvania, and one of nine in Allegheny County.
Other activities are on the calendar involving the Matta-Dillinger center, locally and nationally.
Sledge called attention to the Cancer Prevention Study 3 of the ACS Epidemiology Research Program, inviting men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have no personal history of cancer to participate. The society said it is seeking 500,000 adults to join and have about 350,000 so far. More details are at the www.cancer.org website.
Closer to home, group dietary counseling sessions will begin this month for patients and caregivers at the center. Clauss said some cancer patients do not realize how chemotherapy affects how food will taste to them.
Meanwhile, plans are in the works for “Wheels of Hope,” a fundraising effort involving the center and McKeesport Hospital Foundation on June 22 at the Palisades. Participants will be able to walk or ride the Great Allegheny Passage, going as far as Pittsburgh as the event comes after the opening of the last stretch of the Steel Valley Trail near Sandcastle. There also will be a health fair at the Palisades, entertainment and food.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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