Especially timed to coincide with World Cancer Day (WCD), held annually on February 4th, the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC) celebrated the 8th edition of its Foro contra el cáncer (Forum against cancer). Presided by Queen Letizia of Spain as AECC’s Honorary President, this year’s conversation centered on and around the psychological needs of cancer patients, their families and loved ones.

Hosted by the CaixaForum in Madrid thanks to the support from the “la Caixa” Foundation – one of VHIO’s cherished private patrons, the AECC appealed to the Spanish National Healthcare System to continue to offer psychological support and care of excellence to all individuals directly touched by this disease.

Commenting for VHIO Communications, Ángeles “Nines” Peñuelas Saiz, Head of VHIO’s Clinical Research Oncology Nurses at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus), current President of the Spanish Society of Oncology Nursing (Sociedad Española de Enfermería Oncológica– SEEO), and invited speaker at this year’s Forum, observed, “Specialized oncology nurses are naturally among those healthcare professionals who most directly manage and interact with cancer patients and their relatives throughout the course of their disease. We help them to face, confront and hopefully best adjust to the various phases of their respective cancer journeys. It is through this precious connectivity with our patients that we can best understand how they are actually feeling at both the physical and emotional levels.

VHIO’s Clinical Research Oncology Nurses, led by Nines, are specialized in molecular therapies and represent an important element of our multidisciplinary teams involved in clinical trials performed and coordinated at VHIO’s Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) – “La Caixa” and Clinical Trials Office, directed by Elena Garralda, also Principal Investigator of VHIO’s Early Clinical Drug Development Group, and Gemma Sala, respectively.

Supporting these teams comprised of medical oncologists, molecular pathologists, oncology pharmacists, clinical researchers, and study coordinators, VHIO’s oncology nurses are key to ensuring the delivery of excellent care whereby patients receive the full range of expertise, guidance, and the necessary follow-up throughout the course of their participation in a particular clinical study.

As importantly is the psychological back up they provide, alongside the other superbly trained oncology care givers and specialists including medical oncologists and psychologists. VHIO’s Clinical Research Oncology Nurses also assume a key role in providing patients and families with the information they need to make fully informed decisions concerning their treatment options.

Following up after the appointments with their medical oncologists, we are the first point of call for our patients. Due to the often very stressful and emotional conditions, only around 20% of information imparted by physicians is generally received and fully registered by patients. We seek  to reinforce what has previously been said, explain the possible side effects of treatments, talk about the importance of  a healthy lifestyle and diet, advise on skin care and any other related aspects in order to help improve their wellbeing, ” added Nines.

From the emotional perspective, comprehensive cancer care comprises three main pillars: first, the direct support for patients and their families; second, the early identification of their particular needs and often complex circumstances; and thirdly, provision of timely, tailored and specialized care from psycho-oncologists.

Concerning the latter, VHIO salutes the AECC for helping to raise awareness on the psychological impact of cancer and support this essential area of cancer care through its dedicated program that provides public hospitals across Spain with psycho-oncologists as integral members of their multidisciplinary teams.

“While our oncology nurses  are pivotal in managing the emotional impact and stress faced by cancer sufferers and family members, complementary expert  and specialized psychological care is absolutely imperative and must not be compromised,” concluded Josep Tabernero, Director of VHIO and Head of the Medical Oncology Department at the Vall d´Hebron University Hospital (HUVH).