A Report from the Flinders Survivorship Conference 2015 by Professor Bogda Koczwara AM.
The second Flinders Survivorship conference took place from 6-7th of February 2015 in Adelaide. The conference theme “Life after cancer- from recovery to resilience” allowed the opportunity for nearly 300 attendees including consumers and professionals from diverse fields including cancer care, general practice, research and policy to come together to consider the latest developments in the area of cancer survivorship.
The Conference commenced with the Ashley Moore Oration established in memory of Ashley Moore AM, a passionate cancer advocate and the Chair of Cancer Voices SA who was instrumental in the establishment of the first Survivorship Conference and sadly lost his life to cancer last year. The inaugural Oration was delivered by Sally Crossing AM, the Chair of Cancer Voices Australia and the facilitator of the Australian Cancer Consumer Network. Sally, a close friend of Ashley’s, delivered an eloquent and passionate address highlighting the significant contribution consumers have made to cancer control in Australia and the importance of working with and not for consumers as a guiding motto for clinicians, researchers and policy makers. You can read Sally’s summation of her the oration and watch video footage here.
The Conference explored number of areas including biology of cancer, strategies to manage problems after cancer, the value of wellness and resilience and new models of care. Since the last conference in 2013 there have been a number of exciting projects undertaken in Australia in the area of cancer survivorship and results of many of those have been had been presented at the meeting. The attendees witnessed the launch of the COSA Model of Survivorship Care which is designed to serve as a framework for survivorship care delivery in Australia.
Some of the highlights of the conference were presentations on new Australia guidelines on management of psychosocial distress after cancer delivered by Michael Jefford, an excellent overview of the role of positive psychology in building resilience and the South Australian population-based approach to building the “state of wellness” delivered by Gabrielle Kelly from the SAHMRI Centre for Well-being and Resilience, Julie Marker’s presentation on how cancer survivors can be improve the quality of medical students’ learning and Graeme Suthers’ bold notion that if you live long enough, cancer is inevitable.
The area of chronic disease management featured strongly a with particular focus on strategies to address the problem of metabolic illness, bone health and psychological morbidity. Unlike in 2013, self-management was no longer a foreign term and care plan were explored in various models of care including shared care, nurse led care and e-health. A highlight of the Conference was a plenary on “Connected Survivorship” which explored the role of technology to collect survivors around the world and featured a live link to Stupid Cancer in New York City (http://stupidcancer.org/) and to Townsville and Mount Isa health services and care providers and survivors living in remote Queensland.
But the conference was not just about the science. Its real strength lied in the engagement with the consumer experience, the personal perspectives and stories of the life after cancer. The highlight here was an extraordinary book reading from Luke Ryan, and author of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo” and a two time cancer survivor who shared stories of his most intimate moments while treated for osteosarcoma. While the reading resulted in fits of laughter, many of the points he made were poignant and insightful. For details about the book check out http://www.lukeayresryan.com/.
A special highlight of the conference was “A United Call to Action” – an opportunity for attendees to voice their own commitment to work identify their own priorities and objectives for advancing the quality of survivorship care.
The Conference finished with a panel discussion on “Is Cancer Survivorship a New Disease?” which explored many of the themes discussed throughout the two days and how consumers and professionals can best contribute to progress off survivorship care. A comment by one of the attendees “We are all on the same page!” was a befitting summary of the Conference’s mission and spirit.
Plans for Flinders Survivorship Conference 2017 on 3-4th of February 2017 are already underway.
Bogda Koczwara AM is Professor of Medical Oncology, Flinders University and NHMRC Translating Research Into Practice Fellow, Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.