Psychosocial Oncology: Interventions & Impact on Practice

3rd & 4th December, Cardiff

The Village Hotel in Cardiff was venue of the 2009 BPOS conference. Galina Velikova opened the convention by giving a warm welcome to all attendees, setting the tone for 2 days of knowledge building, information exchanges and a chance to renew acquaintances and meet new people all with a passion and thirst for knowledge for the advancement of information in psychosocial oncology.

Keynote speaker Sara Faithfull, Professor of Cancer Nursing Practice from the University of Surrey was first to speak giving an inspiring and thought provoking talk on Survivorship and Self Management “What’s in the black box?”. This presentation highlighted the issues facing survivors of cancer and whether the right questions are being asked by researchers/clinicians with respect to quality of life, owing to survivors changing and adapting their life to fit with any lasting physiological constraints. Sara spoke of how the long-term physical and psychological effects of cancer can bear influence on an individual long after any interventions have been received, questioning whether the correct factors are being targeted. Type of clinician and location of the intervention setting was conceptualised from the survivors and clinicians viewpoint, detailing the advantages and disadvantages in holding interventions away from ‘medical’ settings. This presentation offered much food for thought to all attendees, so it seemed only fitting that the conference was to break for lunch and poster viewings.

The posters offered a diverse range of topics from ‘Skin cancer: exploring needs and experiences (SCENE) at diagnosis’ (Kumar et al; University of Nottingham) to ‘Cancer in primary care: Patients’ and family members’ experiences and views of the QOF cancer care review’ (Adams et al; Oxford Brookes), the latter being the presented with the best poster award. The wealth of literature provided an extra source of debate and enquiry.

The first presentation after lunch was by J. Arnott, (Manchester University) who spoke about how individuals cope with their cancer, finding that those who felt in control of their illness were more likely to have an adaptive coping strategy. This details how it is essential for the patient to be an informed and empowered individual from the very beginning of their diagnosis. Following this was a qualitative analysis by S. Denford (Plymouth University) on concepts of normality after mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, finding themes which could be readily utilised by healthcare professionals helping bridge the gap between the patients understanding and medical professional’s notions of normality. S Harrison (Oxford University) on individuals experiences of being discharged, identifying a sub-group who may require ongoing care, and D Selby (Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine) spoke of web-based potentially harnessing the web as an extra resource, yet this may be problematic certain populations.

The second keynote speaker was Matthew Hotopf, Professor of general hospital psychiatry at Kings College London, who presented research on depression in cancer patients. Matthew reviewed a number of studies in this area suggesting that whilst depression in cancer is complex, it is by no means an inevitable outcome. Whilst a complex problem, research seems to support the use of cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT), in many cases independently of antidepressant use. Matthew also drew our attention to interesting findings whereby nurses has been trained to deliver effective CBT to cancer patients, further supporting the need for multidisciplinary care in psychosocial oncology.

H. Williamson (University of West England) spoke of adolescent and parent experiences of managing the psychosocial impact of appearance change during cancer treatment, this inspirational presentation illustrated the extra struggles teenagers and their parents had to endure whilst living with the effects of cancer. Danielle Wilson-Smith (Wolverhampton University) highlighted the psychosocial needs of children whose parent has cancer, themes of fear and anxiety that the child was going to lose their parent were found, and their mortality was brought into question as they feared having to go through the same ordeal. James Brennan (Bristol University) detailed research which has provided a more robust distress thermometer problem list by redefining points then examining these with a large population of ex-cancer patients.

After the conference closed on day 1 it was an opportunity for everyone to talk about their experiences of the presentations and research over dinner in one of the hotels restaurants. Such merriment and the forming of new alliances continued throughout the night until the early hours of the morning.

Day 2 began after a good breakfast and coffee with Keynote speaker Steve Rollnick, Professor of Healthcare Communication at Cardiff University, giving an insightful talk on motivation and how it is an essential facet in the process of change. This talk emphasised how crucial it is that the individual is motivated to change their health behaviour and how the therapeutic alliance should harness this in order to help facilitate change. F. Munir from Loughborough University spoke about patients desire to have more information on the potential cognitive deficits which could be associated with chemotherapy, giving practical advice to clinicians working with individuals undergoing chemotherapy. D Harcourt (University of West England) spoke of reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients and the development of an interactive, computer based intervention. When trialled it was welcomed as a decision making tool, yet there is the possibility of patients being overwhelmed with information or disappointed as to the availability of certain choices. Darja Brandenburg (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) spoke of sexual rehabilitation, offering the use of a more diverse team to meet client needs.

The final keynote speaker was Jennifer Mitchell who gave a succinct presentation on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support she spoke about the needs of cancer patients in Wales. Survivorship is on the increase and research has indicated that individuals do not have sufficient access to an individual care plan which will help them to live a proactive and independent life as a survivor of cancer.

All presentations showed the dedication of the researchers in their hope to make life easier for those who have been affected by cancer. As the 2nd day of the conference drew to a close there was a noticeable injection of excitement as ideas have been formed and new questions conceived, potentially finding new routes in the discovery of interventions which will positively impact upon patients, their families and clinicians for a life where cancer no longer rules as leader but is harnessed and manipulated to fit in with daily life. All left the conference with the knowledge that the 2010 meet will be one not to be missed.