First Words from Dr. Rodin

And today we dare to dream of a world without cancer. 

A world where all of our loved ones taken far too early, are here with us. A world where they don’t suffer, and a world that looks so much better than our reality. 

But this IS our reality, and while those brilliant minds are working out the cure to cancer, it’s up to us. The ones who have experienced the pain, listened to the experiences of those treated unfairly in our healthcare system, learned from research to support, and know we can do better - in an effort to create better cancer care. Cancer care that puts the human touch back in and treats each unique patient with equity and compassion. So until our dream is a reality, we will make our reality better. 

Our collective mission is to create access to integrative cancer care for all. Through our Psychosocial Oncology Fellowship with SickKids and now the first of its kind Cancer Experience Program with Princess Margaret, we are helping change the face of cancer care with a human touch. 

Get the first update from the Cancer Experience Program from the programs director, Dr. Rodin, below or click the buttons to learn more about our initiatives, and donate now. 

The Cancer Experience Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre was launched just over one year ago, with the generous support of the Carley’s Angels Foundation. This program was created to enhance the wellbeing of cancer patients, their loved ones and the members of their healthcare team. An important goal of this program, which aligns with the theme of World Cancer Day, is to ensure inclusion and equity in access to cancer care and the full range of resources for patients and families from diverse communities of race, culture and gender 

The Cancer Experience Program at The Princess Margaret has already launched initiatives to better understand the diversity of our patient population and the measures needed to improve equity in all aspects of cancer care. The Princess Margaret is making translation services more readily available to those for whom English is not a first language. We are working to ensure access to psychosocial care for marginalized populations. The program is also committed to greater equity in other aspects of high-quality cancer care, such as clinical trials and cancer rehabilitation and survivorship services. The Princess Margaret has launched a study examining the lived experience of Black women with breast cancer, to identify and overcome barriers to access to cancer care and create supportive services for Black women.

As cancer treatment regimens have become more complex, patients and families have even greater need for timely and accurate information, emotional support and help navigating the system. Partnering with a wide range of departments and services at The Princess Margaret, including the Digital Health team, the Cancer Experience Program is working to create a comprehensive and seamless navigation platform, harnessing technology with human connection. 

This will include access to specific supports for family caregivers, who have been described as the ‘invisible backbone’ of cancer care. These caregivers have multiple challenges and responsibilities placed on them and may experience more distress than even patients themselves. A multidisciplinary team has been brought together to develop and deliver resources to family caregivers so they will have routine access to the education, support and skills they need to protect their own wellbeing and that of their family member. 

The pandemic has caused distressing disruptions in treatment, painful social isolation and heightened anxiety for many patients, families and healthcare providers. Understanding that the wellbeing of these three groups are interconnected, we are now undertaking measures to improve the wellbeing of cancer care providers, as well as that of patients and families.

For example, the way in which healthcare providers communicate sensitive and potentially distressing information has a powerful impact on the psychological state of patients and families. Compassionate communication from their healthcare team also affects their satisfaction with their care and their participation in treatment decisions.

The Princess Margaret is working with oncologists and other healthcare providers, patients and families, and a professional communications team, to create a tool that will heighten awareness of essential communication skills in cancer care. This communications tool will take into account the needs of diverse patients, the stage of their disease and their course of treatment.

The ambience at The Princess Margaret may also shape the experience of all who work, train or receive care in the building. The Cancer Experience Program has established partnerships with the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to bring inclusive, uplifting and culturally sensitive art and music into the Cancer Centre.

Individual musicians from the TSO have already begun to perform “Symphonies for the Soul" in the Cancer Centre. These small, quiet performances have been located where patients spend significant amounts of time, including treatment clinics and inpatient units. We have already witnessed the powerful impact of these performances on patients and staff, especially those who are going through challenging times.

The Princess Margaret is proud to join with Carley’s Angels in marking World Cancer Day and we are most grateful to this Foundation and its supporters for helping to launch the Cancer Experience Program. Thank you!

- Dr. Gary Rodin, Director of the Cancer Experience Program

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