September 12, 2022 by
Janet Essman Franz
Cancer researchers, clinicians, survivors, and caregivers gathered September 30 for the 25th annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference. Hosted by the University of Vermont Cancer Center, the event took place in the Dudley H. Davis Center at the University of Vermont and was also available via live stream on Zoom.
This event aims to empower and support individuals with knowledge about cancer prevention, detection and survivorship. This year, cancer patients, integrative oncology experts and physicians shared their best practices and latest evidence-based information and researchers discussed the evolution of cancer science during the past quarter-century and revealed what the future of cancer research looks like.
When Patti O’Brien, M.D., a retired Larner College of Medicine faculty member and breast cancer survivor, organized the first Women’s Health and Cancer Conference in 1987, the event was among the first meetings in the world devoted to the information needs of patients, who, in those days, were often kept in the dark about their treatments. Watch a video interview with O'Brien regarding the event's history and mission.
Now, patients can access information about myriad treatment options and, as a result of that pervasiveness, the need for accurate patient education is greater than ever. Looking ahead, the Courtney and Victoria Buffum Family Foundation established the Patti O’Brien, M.D., Women’s Health and Cancer Fund to support the conference on an ongoing basis through a $1 million endowment.
A primary theme of this year’s conference was whole-person, integrative health care, which uses all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, health care professionals and self-care to achieve optimal well-being. Participants were able to explore integrative therapies including massage, yoga, and acupuncture. Kim Dittus, M.D., Ph.D., a medical oncologist, UVM Cancer Center member and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, delivered a keynote address, titled “Moving from treating cancer to treating the whole person.”
Additional highlights of the program included:
· A panel of experts, including Randall Holcombe, M.D., MBA, director of the UVM Cancer Center, who discussed new technologies to reduce the burden of cancer. These include artificial intelligence and genetic testing to identify cancer before symptoms develop and new cellular therapies to “re-engineer’ the immune system to attack cancer cells.
· A session on Rural Cancer Health Disparities in Vermont, led by Jan Carney, M.D. MPH, Associate Dean for Public Health at the Larner College of Medicine.
· A patient panel focused on creating a survivor’s wellness plan that addresses physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
· A discussion about current screening guidelines for lung, colorectal and gynecological cancers, and what patients can expect.
· Tips on how to build an integrative care team for a patient.
· A talk, led by Stephen Berns, M.D., associate professor and UVM director of education for palliative medicine, about when and how to have goals of care conversations with cancer patients.
The conference was co-chaired by Cancer Center members Jessica Cintolo-Gonzalez, M.D., and Michelle Machesky, PA-C.
The 2022 Women's Health and Cancer Conference was sponsored by the Victoria Buffum Fund at the UVM Cancer Center, the Eleanor B. Daniels Fund, and Vox Radio Group.