I am going to use this as an opportunity to expose you to some of the awesomeness I saw and learned about at the conference I went to this past week for the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncolology.
All last week, while at the conference, I was so excited, I wanted to tell the internet world about it, but resisted the urge in order to keep people from hating a million small updates about things that may not be as thrilling to everyone except me. But now, I will give a digest of some of the cool videos, tools and ideas that captured my attention at the conference and that I think might appeal to a wider audience.
First of all, every single keynote speaker pointed out that physicians are burnt out and that leads to poor communication, missing compassion and other issues. They also all cited a study of Internal Medicine residents showing that 76% displayed symptoms of burnout or depression. This made me feel depressed. Mostly because I know it is true. Also because I wanted to know what information was out there. So, I found a decent review article (IsHak et al. 2009) on the topic citing burnout rates to be anywhere between 25-76% and that self-care, counseling and system changes might help the residents and in turn improve patient care. Fascinating.
We have a system of health care, but not a system of caring.
Dignity is huge. Studies have shown that the factor that was seen as the make/break point in maintaining dignity was how the individual thought they appeared to others. Feeling dignity is supported if they feel they are being seen as a person and as a WHOLE PERSON, not just a disease.
One speaker talked about a thing they were doing at their hospital where they asked new patients to the palliative care service an additiona question, “What should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?” It changed care for many people.
Breast cancer risk is increased by smokng. But, interestingly, that risk is most increased when people smoke during periods of breast development. So, a group in BC designed videos targeting teens to try to make a change in this behavior. And it is working!
ReThink Breast Cancer is a nonprofit all about young women with breast cancer. They have support groups and events and all that good stuff. They even have a blog. They also promoted a super cool publication in the form called Cancer Fabulous Diary, which is a book with coping tips and musings for young some with breast cancer. It is written with the blogger from Cancer Fabulous, which is basically the experience of a young woman named Sylvia Soo who is a breast cancer survivor diagnosed at the young age of 24.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network has a webinar series on Thursdays about things like advocacy, drug funding and really relevant political/medical issues. Who knew? They aren’t the only ones though. Lots of other non-profits in cancer care have webinars with relevant topics.
No man is an island.
I went to a series of talks on decision making in older adults with cancer. About how they make decisions, how people get information and how they enroll in trials. Many people factor in their age, even more than providers sometimes expect. Family members are often divided into two categories, the super involved and the not involved. Both can have their pitfalls. Also, subtleties in communication with the provider influence the decisions a great deal. Sometimes the appearance of interest of a physician in a clinical trial will convince someone who was on the fence. Also, older adults cope better with a cancer diagnosis and treatment decision making than younger adults.
I saw a really cool video documentary on sexuality in young adult cancer survivors that addressed a lot of big issues. The maker of the video is designing a website and taking the show on the road. Unfortunately, it isn’t up yet, so I can’t show you. But, it was very real and honest and not sugarcoated like a lot of stuff out there these days.
Psychosocial oncology is cool!