The 7th Annual Shirley Hui Memorial Event, which took place on Oct 11th, 2017 at the UCLA Faculty Center, aimed to empower cancer survivors and their caregivers. The host of the event was Professor Ka-Kit Hui MD FACP, the Director and Founder of the UCLA Center for East West Medicine, who for almost a quarter of the century, has encouraged physicians to take the person-centered approach in caring for the patient, rather than focusing on individual symptoms or diseases. Under his leadership, the clinicians at the Center's four clinics have helped many patients who have been referred by more than 500 physicians at UCLA Health.
Keynote speaker Patricia Ganz, MD, Distinguished Professor in Health Policy, Management and Medicine at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, brought the audience’s attention to the “3 P’s” of cancer survivorship: Palliation, Prevention and Health Promotion. She stated that multiple behavioral and psychosocial interventions can benefit the 15 million cancer survivors in the world. She has proposed a chronic care model, which includes integrative health approaches to improve the symptoms of patients during and after cancer treatment.
With an emphasis on caring for the mental, as well as physical health of the patients, Dr. Ganz says that, “It is not okay to tell patient with cancer that they are lucky to be alive.”
In relation to this, our second speaker, Julienne Bower, PhD, George F. Solomon Professor of Psychoneuroimmunology at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience, highlighted the importance of mind-body approaches which, have been effective in dealing with the persistent fatigue experienced by 20 - 30% of cancer survivors. The cause of this fatigue can be multi-factorial, but research has shown that it is generally caused by pro-inflammatory cytokines released by immune cells associated with cancer treatment. Methods to treat this fatigue include Iyenger Yoga, Tai Chi, and mindfulness meditation, which all are practices of integrative medicine and may reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.
Our last speaker Kathleen Van Dyk, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCLA Health and Johnson Comprehensive Cancer Center, discussed the concerns of cancer survivors who suffer from “chemobrain”, a cancer-related cognitive impairment most prevalent in breast cancer survivors. Patients with this impairment often have trouble with things like multitasking, learning and finding the appropriate words to use when speaking. Research using neuro-imaging has shown that patients who suffer from chemobrain have decreased grey matter in the frontal lobe, inflammation of the superhighways, and higher activity in brain areas when completing tasks compared to normal brains. Although currently there are no solutions for this post-cancer treatment effect, all three speakers agreed that daily exercise will garner both symptomatic and general improvement.
Since in the U.S., with 10,000 people turning 65 years old daily and joining the high cancer risk population, we expect to see the number of cancer survivors rise. Thus, attention must be given to this special population as the post-cancer effects can have dramatic consequences on the quality of life of cancer survivors. Dr. Ganz, Dr. Bowers and Dr. Van Dyk all implore healthcare practitioners to simply “ask” survivors about their everyday living as a first step towards the development of continued care.
To conclude, Dr. Hui shared with the audience the Center's vast experience in helping patients at various stages of their cancer journey. From helping the patients manage their stress at the time of their diagnosis, assisting them go through the vigor of treatment with minimal short and long term side effects, working with them in maintaining remission or to tamper the cancer's progression, to providing them with palliation throughout their journey by focusing on their quality of life.
In short, we focus on the person and ensure that all interventions will take into consideration their effects not only on the quantity and quality of life of the patient, but also of the well-being of the caregivers/family.
Dr. Hui introduced the idea of the urgent need to train physicians and other health professionals in integrative health to form a dedicated team in caring for the patients and their similarly stressed out caregivers during their journey with cancer.