Serious illness conversations

Dr Margie Venter, a palliative care specialist and oncologist, raised some interesting points about serious illness conversations, particularly the idea that advanced care planning discussions need to be done with everyone. This includes initiating the conversation at diagnosis and not just in the last stages of terminal disease, with the aim to assess goals and values more than just treatment options.

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Sexuality and cancer

Dr Ros Boa of Vincent Palotti Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital, addressing the topic of “Sexuality and cancer”, said that cancer profoundly impacts sexual well-being on physical, psychological and social levels, and it’s important for patients to be able to discuss sexuality with health professionals. Studies have shown that patients tend to “struggle in silence” rather than ask their doctor’s advice because 71% felt the doctor wouldn’t be helpful, while 68% thought it might make the doctor uncomfortable. Unfortunately, only 25% of doctors will initiate a conversation about sexuality, and even among gynaecologists, 50% don’t ask if there are problems.

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