Review – Integrative Oncology Symposium: ‘Pathways to Wellness and Survivorship’

18 Jul Review – Integrative Oncology Symposium: ‘Pathways to Wellness and Survivorship’

Earlier this month the Western Australian Clinical Oncology Group (WACOG) held an open conference ‘Integrative Oncology Symposium: Pathways to Wellness and Survivorship’.


The conference focused on the role of integrative oncology in modern cancer care. Shown as an evolving evidence-based speciality that uses complementary therapies alongside medical treatment to enhance its efficacy, improve symptom control, alleviate patient distress, and reduce pain.


Solaris Cancer Care volunteer and Kinesiologist Allison Paull attended the conference “I really enjoyed the guest speaker presentation from Suzanne about Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and its use of Complementary Medicine in a structured environment with empowerment to the clients.


Speakers from across the nation presented their research findings and experience with integrative oncology. Amongst them was Solaris Cancer Care’s own Dr David Joske and Chandrika Gibson.


Dr Joske and Chandrika shared a summary of their presentations and their experiences at the symposium.


Chandrika Gibson: The Role of Yoga in Cancer Care”


I was honoured to present at the WACOG Integrative Oncology Symposium: Pathways to Wellness and Survivorship at the UWA Club on Tuesday, July 11th, 2017. My presentation began with a brief mindfulness experience, and then covered the definition and popularity of yoga, some of the styles of yoga available and their suitability for people affected by cancer. Then I summarised the research that’s been done globally which shows that when appropriate yoga is practised regularly, it is helpful in managing cancer-related symptoms and side effects including depression, lymphedema and fatigue. To sum up I offered some red flags that yoga teachers and therapists should look out for when teaching yoga for cancer care, and described the levels of training that peak professional bodies recognise. In closing, I mentioned some key yoga philosophy concepts that ideally inform the future of yoga in integrative oncology settings.


The event was significant in that it brought together many diverse stakeholders in integrative oncology. The connections made between multi -disciplinary care providers was powerfully unifying and profoundly person-centred. The audience included oncology nurses, GPs, naturopaths, acupuncturists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists, massage therapists, palliative care consultants, yoga teachers, academics, not for profit coordinators, survivors, and advocates for a holistic approach to supportive care. Inspired by keynote speaker Suzanne Grant, a senior acupuncturist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor Dr David Joske, the bridge between complementary and conventional cancer care was strengthened and a spirit of goodwill prevailed.


Dr David Joske: “Lessons from the Trenches in the War on Cancer”


This Symposium fell into place within the space of three weeks, thanks to Suzanne Grant, an oncologic acupuncturist working at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Centre, agreeing visit; and to Paul Katris at the WA Clinical Oncology Group, who arranged a venue and attracted some 70 participants at short notice. Suzanne’s presentation was wide and far ranging and provided many insights into the functioning of their centre, notably the role of a complementary physician and the greater integration with the parent Hospital through shared use of medical notes. Chandrika gave a comprehensive and well-considered overview of the use of Yoga in cancer patients including reviews of current data and evidence for how it works. Professor Anne Williams, chair of the Solaris Research Committee spoke about the current research we are doing to establish the amount of use of complementary therapies and medicines, and of Solaris, in WA cancer patients. Caroline Bulsara told us about her Patient Empowerment Tool that she developed during a study we were doing at SCGH looking at a shared care model that I devised and that received NHMRC funding. The links we made with Suzanne Grant will help with the research collaboration that is planned as the emerging National Alliance of Wellness in Cancer Care Centres that we have been heavily involved in initiating at Solaris. Finally, Christina Line from the Cancer Council outlined their program of community-based complementary therapies. I am pleased to have shared the session with the Cancer Council and this augurs well for the future relationship between the two organisations.


My own talk (entitled “Lessons from the Trenches in the War on Cancer”) was rather a ramble in which I described my professional life experiences and how they have shaped my thinking about how cancer should be delivered, including, of course, the start-up of Solaris Cancer Care. I gave some stories about people whose care I have been involved in; those of you that know me know how passionate I am, about respecting people’s choices in their care and how important it is for health professionals to listen well. Briefly, I think we are a bit guilty of concentrating upon curing. Although we have made some fantastic breakthroughs, especially in haematology and the blood cancers, there are incredible costs of developing these breakthrough drugs, estimated to be around $2b for one drug to make it through to the clinic and bedside. If just a fraction of these monies were diverted to supportive care (in my language, this is the healing) we could help people so much more to get through the cancer journey. After all, no matter what breakthroughs we achieve, there is still that moment when someone has to recalibrate their life, and its meaning, and all the issues affected by a cancer diagnosis: job, relationships, health, family, and so on.


From all of us involved thank Paul Katris for organising this so well and so quickly.