On Tuesday 3 September 2019, 185 guests gathered for an evening of networking, canapes and dinner at Huntingdale Golf Club. MPCCC’s 2019 Cancer Forum attendees represented a wide range of our stakeholders, including leading researchers, clinicians and allied health professionals, patient advocates, members of government and community representatives.

We heard from four guest speakers over the course of the evening, beginning with an animated and engaging Fiona Patten, Leader of the Reason Party and a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Ms Patten championed Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) in Victoria, and she discussed the process that led to Victoria being the first state in Australia to pass VAD laws.

“Most Victorians say they would like to die at home but only 14% currently do. The eligibility criteria to access VAD are very stringent and it can only be used in very specific circumstances. But it being on the table gives cancer patients and their families peace of mind and a sense of control over their end of life decisions,” Ms Patten said.

Professor Mei Krishnasamy from the University of Melbourne spoke about supportive care as the provision of services necessary to meet the physical, emotional, social, psychological, cultural, informational, spiritual and practical needs of people affected by cancer throughout diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative care and bereavement.

“Supportive care makes an enormous contribution to providing value-based healthcare and has multiple benefits to patients, carers and the healthcare system,” said Professor Krishnasamy.

Our patient advocate Mrs Vivienne Interrigi shared a very powerful account of ‘the year she never expected,’ in which she summarised her cancer journey and her decision to raise awareness of supportive care. She stressed the importance of supportive care provision beyond the patient, highlighting how it comforted her to know her husband was also supported during her treatment.

“I am so grateful to my treating team who cared for my husband during my treatment. Knowing they were there to make him a cup of tea and check in on him made it okay for me to be having chemotherapy,” said Mrs Interrigi.

Dr Kate Webber, a Medical Oncologist at Monash Health and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Monash University, gave the final presentation of the evening. She called for a shift in focus from ‘survival’ to ‘living well’ post-cancer diagnosis and treatment, highlighting the positive impact of supportive care on cancer outcomes.

“Most patients will be able to self-direct their supportive care needs, provided they have access to the relevant resources,” explained Dr Webber.

“Then there are patients who need a little extra support, which can be delivered through a shared-care model. But the patients who are really missing out are those with multiple barriers to accessing supportive care – including linguistic and cultural, geographical, financial and other barriers,” Dr Webber said.

Mr Frank McGuire MP, Medical Parliamentary Secretary for Victoria, attended the event and provided concluding remarks. He congratulated MPCCC on its first-class cancer research and its attention to service improvement, which contributes to Victoria’s reputation as a world leader in cancer care.

Together our speakers provided valuable insights into how we can continue to improve the provision of equitable, supportive care to cancer patients in our region.