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Type E – Dr Margie Venter – Serious Illness Conversation

A travel grant was awarded to Dr Margie Venter  of ENFOLD (an integrated oncology palliative care service) to attend the SASCRO/SASMO Congress at Sandton Convention Centre from 4th to 6th August 2017.

The major areas of study and how the visit have contributed to the understanding and/or management of cancer

Although cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years, and around 50% of people live beyond the 5 year survival mark, 50% don’t. The last 5 years or so has seen growing interest and a robust body of research confirming positive outcomes, including survival, when dealing more mindfully with this group of seriously ill patients. Reformers are not only integrating palliative care alongside cancer-directed treatments early on, they are also engaging in crucial conversations with patients and their families at a suitable time.

However, these can be daunting conversations and ones we have not been trained to have. Atul Gawande, neurosurgeon at the Brigham and Women’s hospital, professor at Harvard medical school and famed author of “Being Mortal”, has been involved in developing and researching a novel 9-step conversation guide, to help clinicians engage appropriately with patients and their families. Having this conversation will enable the clinician to make recommendations, and help the patient to make informed choices reflecting their own values, and so reduce suffering and increase well being in the long run.

The workshop offered basic training to 30 participants in using the Serious Illness Conversation Guide, developed and researched by Ariadne Labs in Boston, USA in association with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Woman and Brigham’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The workshop was well received and it is hoped that similar events can be held in the future.


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