Working FOR & WITH patients: thoughts about the upcoming secondment @Oncoavanze
A year has flown by since the beginning of my industrial doctorate in the European project CATCH. A time spent at Salumedia, a digital health company with an ideal infrastructure to start this journey - details of that experience in my previous blog post. This year helped me step into the field of mHealth and Cancer and to decide the specific area where my research could provide a valuable contribution. Last week, I started my secondment at Oncoavanze, an Oncology clinic also based in Seville. This will be the first of three secondments and the last stop before moving to Ireland - later down the line, I will spend time at the Beacon Hospital and University College Dublin (where I’m enrolled as a PhD student).
Oncoavanze: Oncology Clinic
Oncoavanze’s activity is spread among different hospitals and private clinics in Seville. The team is formed by oncologists, psychologists, nurses, physical activity experts and administrative staff, with a common goal:
“to offer the best professional attention to the patient, while supporting the human needs of the patients and their families, providing personalised care and psychological treatment.”
The collaborations extend to specialists in surgery, radiotherapy, pneumology, internal medicine, urology, digestive system, neurology, etc.
The implementation of a holistic treatment approach – focusing on medical oncology, psycho-oncology and physical activity –, together with the participation in national and international conferences and research projects, brings power and trust to this clinic, which manages to provide hope to the majority of cancer patients in Seville.
Fig 1. Website mainpage. Source: www.oncoavanze.es
Beginning of the Secondment
It all started with a visit to the clinic’s main office... There, the Oncologists receive recently diagnosed patients and have follow-up consultations throughout the treatment course.
Considering the psychological impact that cancer has in people’s lives, Oncoavanze provides support from psycho-oncologists as an integral part of the medical treatment offered. The purpose is to facilitate tools that help recovering emotional balance during and after treatment.
The clinic also proposes a physical activity program (currently focused on breast cancer), which seems to have a great impact in patients' lives. The program is called vidaON and involves group activities such as Nordic Walking and Deep Water Running. These activities were proposed by an exercise expert, inspired by the way she was able to overcome breast cancer.
Fig. 2: Nordic walking and deep water running activities of the vidaON program of Oncoavanze. Source: vidaON Facebook.
I’ve also visited two of the partner hospitals, where I met part of the team of Oncologists and nurses that showed me the day-care facilities and shortly explained the treatment course: in a first appointment the doctor decides the most appropriate treatment, based on the cancer characteristics and on the personal context of the patient; the chemotherapy treatments take place in the mornings, and are normally provided in several sessions that can last from 15 minutes to 5/6 hours each (!!!); a recuperation period is needed in between sessions and, before each session, the doctor makes sure the patient can continue with treatment - considering any side-effects from the previous session and results from blood tests - otherwise, the treatment might be readjusted; once the sessions are finished the patients have revision appointments to decide if to stop or continue chemotherapy, depending on their treatment response…
Overall, I had an insightful start that made me realise the value from being placed in a clinic, and to understand the critical role of Oncoavanze in managing Cancer.
What's to come
In the context of my project, I will have the opportunity to:
Better understand the cancer journey - by having a close contact with patients, understanding their day-to-day life throughout and after treatment, and by being aware of the doctor-patient relation;
Get feedback from oncologists, psycho-oncologists and exercise experts;
Perform quantitative and qualitative studies related to physical activity and mHealth technology;
Learn the workflow and organisation in a clinic;
Collaborate with another researcher from CATCH - Gabriel Signorelli - that is currently working on understanding the barriers and facilitators of this population to physical activity.
I am definitely looking forward to this new phase of the project - to work both FOR and WITH Cancer survivors!