Traveling for cancer care

Map of New York and southern Ontario with a red push pin in Buffalo.

How Roswell Park helps support patients who travel a distance for their cancer care.

People from across New York State, and around the world, come to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to receive consultations and treatments for their cancer care. While the logistics of this may seem daunting, Roswell Park does this every day. From coordinated appointments with our specialists and assistance with hotel accommodations to virtual consultations or arranging for some care at a Network location closer to home, Roswell Park will strive to make it easier for you.

Even before arriving on campus, accommodations can be made to help make your visit a little less stressful and a little more soothing, says Kim Sweeney, Vice President of Patient Care Experience at Roswell Park. Every effort is made to help schedule an out-of-town patient’s visits to be as efficient and useful as possible.

“First off, when we can identify that a patient is coming from a distance, we will try to coordinate their appointments,” she says. “Many times, there’s more than just the initial consultation. We may need some ancillary services added, including lab work or additional testing, which can be coordinated with the oncology consult.”

The new patient might be advised to talk with their primary care doctor about sending over medical files and pertinent details about their cancer to Roswell Park before they arrive. That allows doctors and nurses here to have time to look over the person’s health records before they arrive for an appointment.

Additionally, a patient’s visit can be scheduled to cover many appointments with our experts in a single day, Sweeney says.

“If you need to get labs or scans done in advance, we do our best to arrange those early. If you’re coming from a distance, and you need a CT scan, we’ll get that in the morning,” she says. “We’ll coordinate with our Radiology team to have the physicians there prioritize the review on your scans, to have the report available for your consult with the oncology specialist later in the day.”

We’ll also try to make the most of any downtime. “You can go to the cafeteria, you can have lunch, maybe you go to The 11 Day Power Play Resource Center or we can provide you with a tour and a new patient orientation. We want to make sure it’s time well-spent so you can be oriented to Roswell Park and all the services and support we have to offer,” Sweeney says

Using technology to bridge the distance

For patients within New York State, sometimes an initial consultation with the physician can be conducted virtually. Or, if you travel here for your visit, but you’re unable to bring someone along for support during the visit, Sweeney says arrangements can be made for the doctor’s appointment to include a video call. “This way, a patient’s loved one can virtually sit with the patient and hear the conversation and participate with the consult and ask questions,” she says. Patients can also provide loved ones access to their patient portal in order to share important medical updates as their treatment progresses. If the patient still feels anxious about going into an appointment alone, Sweeney says she’ll find someone from the Resource Center or her Patient Experience team to go with them. “We’ll give them a friendly face.”

Pediatric patients and their caregivers are introduced to the Courage of Carly Fund, which helps them access special support for parents, siblings, and our youngest patients.

You don’t have to do this alone

A cancer diagnosis can be a difficult and overwhelming experience for patients and their caregivers. We want you to know that we are here to help.

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Helping find the comforts of home

Should a patient need to make arrangements to stay in Buffalo, Roswell Park is prepared to help with those accommodations as well. “We do have relationships with local hotels, including one here on the medical campus, and you could possibly be eligible to receive a discount if you’re a Roswell Park patient,” Sweeney says. “We try to coordinate all of that to streamline things and ensure everything is here, so when you come, it’s an efficient, productive and effective appointment.”

If a patient is looking at a longer stay, in the case of a transplant that might require hospitalization for a few days or weeks, their loved ones are put in touch with our social workers, to review other housing arrangements, including the Kevin Guest House just a few blocks away from the Roswell Park campus.

For international travelers, Roswell Park offers other concierge services, including information for local restaurants to meet special dietary or nutritional needs and providing information through our spiritual care offices for houses of worship for religious services. “If there’s an international patient coming, we’ll offer a remote meeting over Teams so patients and their family can meet our doctor, go over information and review records. If there’s a potential treatment option they want to come here for, based on that consultation, we can work with our financial counselors to provide a cost estimate and help facilitate them coming here. This way, they’re not walking in without knowing who the doctor is; they’ve already met. It makes everyone feel more comfortable.”

Receiving some of your cancer care closer to home

Roswell Park believes everyone deserves comprehensive cancer care no matter where they live. The Roswell Park Care Network, with nearly 20 locations in the region and across the state, means that some care — such as chemotherapy infusions, radiotherapy treatments, surgical consultations and other sub-specialized care and treatments — can be arranged at a Roswell Park-affiliated provider at a location closer to your home.

“This is our mission”

Making all of these services available and doing so much to help patients, who might be anxious and scared, feel comforted and cared for from the start is another way in which the care provided at Roswell Park is comprehensive, Sweeney says. “We treat the whole patient. We recognize and appreciate that it’s not just the patient coming for treatment and walking through the door. When they’re coming from a distance, we help meet all their needs and we do that with all our patients. Every patient has a different need, every caregiver has a different need. It’s providing all that care: the emotional care, the physical care for unique needs; whatever journey this patient is on and the stage of the journey they’re at.

“Being a comprehensive cancer center, comprehensive means comprehensive. It’s treating the whole person. It’s a very patient-centric kind of care. And this is our mission. Our mission is not just Western New York, it is international.”