Friends and Colleagues,
IGCS firmly believes that our members have a key role to play in relieving serious health-related suffering for women affected by gynecologic cancers. It is our duty to ensure that our patients have access to the supportive care they require beyond curative treatment. This is a key part of the gynecologic cancer care continuum and important to IGCS’ educational mission.
In all my years working in cancer care, I have observed that the terminology and principles of palliative care, survivorship care, and hospice care are often misunderstood and inconsistently used. Talking with patients and caregivers about their suffering is a delicate and complex conversation that requires knowledge, understanding, and compassion. Too many patients are referred late, or not at all. According to the Global Atlas on Palliative Care, 82% of adults and children in need of palliative care reside in low- and middle-income countries, cancer, especially gynecological cancer being one of the conditions that generates the more serious suffering.
In Development: IGCS Declaration on Palliative Care
I am currently working with the IGCS Board of Directors to draft IGCS’ official declaration on palliative care to fully assert our commitment and views on the need for and role of palliative care in gynecologic cancer care. The declaration will be released in the coming weeks.
It is time for the IGCS and our members to take a firm stance on this issue and talk about the ways that we can work with our teams to positively affect our patients’ quality of life and reduce unnecessary health-related suffering. To close the gap between curative and palliative care and work towards identifying the gaps in logistics for providing palliative care between countries.
Let us remember that palliative care is delivered through an interdisciplinary team approach, requiring communication, coordination, and referrals. As gynecologic cancer specialists, we can have conversations with our patients to assess their needs and introduce them to available services and resources early in the course of illness. We can also influence our care teams and advocate for our national health systems to include palliative care in the continuum of care for people with chronic and life-threatening conditions, linking it to prevention, early detection, and treatment programs.
Education: IGCS Palliative Care Certificate Program
In 2021, the IGCS Education Committee introduced our Palliative Care Certificate Program and made it free for IGCS Members. The comprehensive curriculum consists of online modules on the principles and goals of palliative care, pain and symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care, ethical dilemmas, grief and bereavement support, and the role of interdisciplinary teams. I encourage every member to review the modules in the course. IGCS continues to dedicate time and resources to enhancing our members’ knowledge and understanding of palliative care — additional education is currently in development, including an upcoming webinar on October 18.
On the Main Stage: Presidential Plenary at the IGCS Annual Global Meeting
I’m pleased to announce that we will further discuss this topic on our main stage during the Presidential Plenary at the 2023 IGCS Annual Global Meeting in Seoul. I’ve extended an invitation to Dr. Stephen R. Connor, Executive Director of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance to speak and share data on health-related suffering in gynecologic cancers, help us define terms and better understand the new WHO Public Health Model. The 2023 Presidential Plenary — Relieving Serious Health-Related Suffering for Women with Gynecological Cancers: The WHO Public Health Model — will also include a panel of international experts, moderated by Dr. Connor.
Our goal is to leave our delegates with actionable steps, conversation starters, and the tools to incorporate the principles of palliative care into their practice and close the gaps between curative and palliative care.
If you have questions or comments about the forthcoming declaration and our plans for this year’s Presidential Plenary, please email me at email@example.com. I hope you will all join me in supporting equity in access to palliative care and fully commit to working with your care teams to ensure our patients receive the compassionate, quality care they deserve.
Keiichi Fujiwara, MD, PhD