LIDIA SCHAPIRA: I’m Dr. Lidia Shapira, professor of medicine at Stanford University, where I’m also director of the cancer survivorship program. At the ASCO annual meeting in 2023, researchers talked about a study they conducted on hope in patients who were participating in clinical trials, what we call early phase clinical trials, meaning that they were participating in studies of new drugs or new interventions. .
And, curiously, they measured hope. There are actually some really good scientific ways to look at this. And they found that people who were more hopeful, who had more hope, also had a better quality of life and reported fewer symptoms.
This is very exciting research because it is beginning to help us understand how important it is to encourage people to have hope or to explore their sources of hope. I have often seen hope as a vital sign. And this early research gives me confidence that we can do more to understand what motivates people to hope and what we can do as doctors and clinicians to help them hope.
LIDIA SCHAPIRA: During the ASCO annual meeting in 2023, I was very encouraged to see the work of a very good Canadian team, which did a very thorough review of the published literature on caregivers, in particular carers living with people with advanced cancer – so people who are probably very sick.
And this is a very important field of study. Because we know caregivers are affected by this as well, and their own quality of life often declines due to some of the burdens associated with caregiving.
And again, very optimistic here, researchers have found in all of these studies that helping caregivers actually leads to good outcomes. They looked at many different interventions. So I can’t say that there is one type of intervention in particular that helps more than others. But I was very encouraged to see, for example, that counseling helps, that other interventions offered to caregivers actually help them improve their quality of life, their emotional and psychological well-being.
So it’s very important for all of us. As a cancer clinician, I’ve often wondered how I should approach caregivers, and whether it’s enough to just ask them how they’re doing, or whether our team should reach out and really offer more concrete opportunities for counseling or other forms of help. . I really hope that this research will perhaps inspire many more caregivers to seek help if they need it, and also inspire my colleagues to think about how to offer and implement more interventions to help caregivers living with patients with advanced cancer.
LIDIA SCHAPIRA: At the ASCO Annual Meeting in 2023, I was very encouraged to see some very good detailed and very specific work on how we can help cancer survivors. This is the field in which I work. So I’m always looking for innovation.
And in this study, researchers looked at the likelihood of cancer survivors receiving screening for breast and cervical cancer. And what they found using a very large database was that patients who had received some form of instruction as part of a care plan or over time so that someone really telling them what the next steps would be and what tests were needed had a higher likelihood of receiving that care. So I’m taking that and generalizing that a bit and I think what cancer survivors often don’t get or need is very specific advice on what tests they need, when to come back and see a doctor if they need to see their cancer specialists or their GP or another specialist. And that’s what we need to do more of.
So for cancer survivors, my advice is don’t leave the appointment without knowing exactly what you need to do next, what’s next, or what the next appointment should be. And for my fellow clinicians, I would say that we should all do better by explaining very clearly to patients at the end of the visit what we recommend so that they can get the best care and the best practices to stay healthy after a cancer. .