Nelson and Wellington Oncologist Dr Kate Gregory attended the The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Breast Cancer Symposium Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco in September 2012.
Here are her thoughts and a few learnings for all of us – thanks Kate!
This is a multidisciplinary meeting which is held annually. It has a very American Audience but I was one of five there from New Zealand. There was good participation from survivors and patient advocates.
One of the main things I took away and which I will implement in my practice is the importance of survival planning. Lots of centres now provide patients with a survivorship plan which summarises their treatment today, what their follow up will consist of and recommendations for lifestyle. I have already begun working on these for my Nelson practice and once fine-tuned will look to implement in Wellington too.
On a similar theme there were a couple of studies confirming a survival advantage with maintaining a normal weight. The others session that I thought was really exciting was presenting an on-going study looking at intra-operative radiotherapy. This involves a single radiotherapy dose given in the operating theatre direct to the cavity from where the tumour has been removed. Initial results look very encouraging and this could be of huge benefit in reducing patient attendances at hospital and shortening total treatment time.
The most thought provoking session for me was given by an Epidemiology professor. He described the inequalities in the American Health system and how there were many avoidable deaths every year due to these groups not having access to the basics. This made me very grateful for the health system we have here in New Zealand.
In terms of developments in chemotherapy there was a lot of discussion on new combinations avoiding the use of anthracyclines which do have the potential to cause heart damage and the trend in the USA and also here is to move to these.
Dr Kate Gregory