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Release: July 6, 1999

UI brain tumor support group available to patients and their families

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's a group of people, not a group of patients. With this philosophy in mind, the Brain Tumor Support Group, offered through the University of Iowa Cancer Center, meets on the first Tuesday of every month as a place of exchange, both informative and inspirational.

The invitation is open for individuals diagnosed with a brain tumor, their families, and interested community members. With its six-year history, the group is the only one of its kind available to patients in eastern Iowa.

Described as "proactive" by Lisa Linhardt, co-facilitator in the department of social services at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, the group's meetings are organized around topics that participants want to learn more about. The first portion of the meeting is reserved for presentations by UI Cancer Center physicians and staff to educate the group about topics such as diet, coping with aphasia (the loss of speaking abilities), current developments in brain tumor treatments and medications.

Group interaction is heightened by the participants' desire to do their own research, discuss their findings, ask questions and share thoughts.

"This is a place where people come to feel they're getting what they need," Linhardt said. "I facilitate the group, but I feel that this is their group."

Filling those needs with information is one way the group operates, but many attendees come for the social aspects, such as the group's June picnic and Christmas dinner. One activity being scheduled for upcoming meetings involves tours of various hospital departments, so family members and patients can go behind the scenes and see, for example, the magnetic imaging resonance control room to get a different perspective on their cancer care.

Timothy Ryken, M.D., UI assistant professor of surgery, serves as a medical consultant to the group and gets involved to contribute to all aspects of brain tumor care.

"I do this to have as much contact with patients struggling with brain tumors as possible," said Ryken, a UI Health Care neurosurgeon. "The group is important because it helps us understand the patients' attitudes and needs, as well as how to counsel people and how brain tumors affect them socially and psychologically."

For more information about the Brain Tumor Support Group meeting times and events, contact Lisa Linhardt at (319) 356-1658.