"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

What helps cancer patients

LIDIA SCHAPIRA: I'm Dr. Lidia Shapira, professor of drugs at Stanford University, where I'm also director of the cancer survivorship program. At the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting, researchers talked a few study they conducted to look at hope in patients who were participating in clinical trials, what we call early phase clinical trials, meaning they were participating in trials latest drugs or latest interventions.

And interestingly, they measured hope. There are literally some excellent scientific ways to review this. And they found that individuals who had more hope, who were more hopeful, also had a greater quality of life and reported fewer symptoms.

This could be very exciting research since it helps us understand the importance of encouraging people to be hopeful or to explore their sources of hope. I actually have often considered hope as an indication of life. And these early research findings give me confidence that we will do more to know what makes people feel hopeful and what we will do as their doctors and clinicians to assist them be hopeful.

LIDIA SCHAPIRA: At the annual ASCO meeting in 2023, I used to be very encouraged to see the work of a really advantageous Canadian team that has done a really careful review of the published literature on caregivers, particularly caregivers living with individuals who have advanced cancer – people who find themselves probably quite sick.

And that is a vital area of ​​research because we all know that caregivers are also affected and their very own quality of life often decreases because of a number of the stresses related to caregiving.

And again, very optimistic: the researchers have present in all these studies that supporting caregivers actually results in good outcomes. They checked out many alternative interventions. So I can't say that there’s a specific sort of intervention that helps greater than others. But I used to be very encouraged to see that, for instance, counseling helps, that other interventions which can be available to caregivers actually help them improve their quality of life, their emotional and psychological well-being.

So this is admittedly vital for all of us. As a cancer clinician, I actually have often wondered how I should approach caregivers and whether it is sufficient to just ask them how they’re or whether our team should approach them and really offer more concrete advice or other support. I actually hope that perhaps this research will encourage many more caregivers to ask for help after they need it and in addition encourage my colleagues to take into consideration the best way to offer and implement more interventions to support caregivers living with patients with advanced cancer.

LIDIA SCHAPIRA: At the 2023 ASCO annual meeting, I used to be very encouraged to see some excellent, detailed, very concrete work on how we might help cancer survivors. This is my area of ​​expertise, so I'm at all times on the lookout for innovations.

In this study, researchers checked out how likely cancer survivors were to attend screening for breast and cervical cancer. Using a really large database, they found that patients who had received some sort of guidance through a treatment plan or through someone really telling them what the subsequent steps can be and what tests were needed were more prone to get that treatment. I'm generalizing just a little bit and I believe that cancer survivors often don't get or need very specific advice about what tests they need and after they should come back to the doctor, whether or not they have to see their cancer specialist, their primary care doctor or one other specialist. And that's what we’d like to do more of.

So my advice to cancer survivors is don't leave the appointment without knowing exactly what you might want to do next, what the subsequent step is, or when the subsequent appointment must be. And to my colleagues who’re clinicians, I’d say we should always all do a greater job of creating it very clear to patients at the top of the visit what we recommend in order that they receive one of the best care and one of the best practices to remain healthy after cancer.