Why You Should Get Out of Cancer Rehab

I’m not going to lie: I had major FOMO this year with APTA CSM.  Seeing all the amazing photos & videos on social media made me like I really missed out.  

So I was really excited to attend the Cowtown Oncology Nursing Symposium again here in Fort Worth.  Cowtown ONS is a 2-day community-based conference for oncology nurses that my mom & sister attended way before I did, but they totally got me hooked!

You may be wondering why I attended a nursing conference, since I’m not a nurse.  But there’s actually several reasons why you should attend conferences outside your specialty, hence the “leave cancer rehab” title of this episode – hopefully I didn’t make you too nervous with the episode title 😀

Why You Should Attend a Conference Outside Your Discipline/Specialty

You’ll Learn New Information

Conferences outside of your specialty can introduce new technologies, treatment modalities, and best practices that can enhance your clinical practice.  I learned so much about proton therapy at this conference – especially since I’ve never encountered a patient treated with proton therapy before.  We even have a proton therapy treatment center here in the Fort Worth-Dallas metroplex, so I definitely need to hop on this new info.

Learn Different Info About Things You Already Know

Patients with cancer don’t just have cancer.  Many patients you encounter have complex medical conditions & presentations.  Attending conferences outside of your specialty exposes you to new information about these conditions & can broaden your skill set to better manage these cases.

One of the speakers discussed how immunotherapy is rapidly becoming a major part of endometrial cancer treatment, to the point that they even teased an upcoming New England Journal of Medicine article that may revolutionize our understanding of this disease.  

Understand Perspectives & Viewpoints of Other Health Care Professionals

Attending conferences outside of your specialty can foster personal and professional growth, providing opportunities to learn from other healthcare professionals and contribute to interdisciplinary research collaborations. 

In a presentation on onco-fertility, the speaker referenced an ASCO Practice Guideline update from 2013, which states all oncologic health care providers should be prepared to discuss infertility as a potential risk of treatment.  Guess who’s even included in the list: US!

It’s Prime Time for Networking & Advocating

By networking with professionals from other specialties, you can gain new insights and perspectives on patient care, which can improve your overall clinical outcomes. Overall, attending conferences outside your specialty can help cancer rehab professionals stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in healthcare and expand your knowledge and expertise.

Top Takeaways from Cowtown Oncology Nursing Symposium 2023

Proton therapy is really exciting.

Proton therapy is a special type of radiation therapy that uses protons, instead of photons, to kill cancer cells.  Proton therapy is hurling a projectile at cancer cells to kill them.  Think Randy Johnson 2001.  

The physician who spoke about proton therapy discussed the process, how it works, how it’s drastically improving radiation side effects (for more info, check out my Radiation Therapy course on MedBridge & save up to $150 with code THEONCOPT).

It was especially eye opening to see how proton therapy is reducing hospitalization length for patients undergoing surgery post-radiation for esophageal cancer.  Hopefully, we see this trend cross over into lots of cancer diagnoses in the near future.

Tumors can have mutations.

Cancer is the result of a series of mutations in the body.  But did you know that tumors themselves can have mutations?  Essentially, the replication process of cancer cells can snowball to the point that cancer cells will mutate from their cancer cell line, which can render treatments that worked previously useless.

Immunotherapy is evolving.

When I first started practicing, immunotherapy was kind of this last ditch effort for patients with incurable cancers.  Just a few years later, my understanding of immunotherapy has changed so much.  At the conference this weekend, there was a ton of discussion on immunotherapy & the testing that goes into the selection of immunotherapy agents for patients.  

These days, we would never treat breast cancer without knowing the ER/PR/HER2 status of the patient’s cancer.  It’s the SAME for immunotherapy & targeted therapy!

Cancer Rehab has a lot of work to do.

While it’s tempting to write this off as “same message, different day,” Cowtown was very eye-opening for me regarding how far cancer rehab still has to go.  I sat with a long-time oncology nurse from MD Anderson who had no idea what cancer rehab can do for patients.  But after the conference, she even said “I wish I knew this before I retired.”  

Even at this MAJOR CANCER CENTER, we are still not doing a good job of educating, communicating, & advocating for cancer rehab for our patients.  Some people may feel frustrated by this, but I actually felt very invigorated & motivated leaving the conference with that message.

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT.  And remember you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.

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