A Seat at the Table: Inter-professional Meeting on Oncology and Exercise Standards Held at the American Cancer Society

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Thoughts about occupational therapy, interdisciplinary management and living live to its fullest!

A Seat at the Table: Inter-professional Meeting on Oncology and Exercise Standards Held at the American Cancer Society

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I had the pleasure of representing the American Occupational Therapy Association at an inter-professional meeting that was held at the American Cancer Society on November 7th. Attendees at the meeting included representatives from:

  • The American Physical Therapy Association
  • The LIVESTRONG Foundation
  • The American College of Sports Medicine
  • The YMCA of America
  • A Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician
  • TurningPoint Breast Rehabilitation
  • The American Cancer Society

The meeting focused on issues and challenges related to exercise and oncology across the cancer continuum (education and outreach, screening, diagnosis and staging, treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care). For example, patients with cancer may be encountering recommendations to exercise while receiving skilled rehabilitative services or from someone in the community whether it is their primary care physician, an oncologist in a community or acute hospital or from a friend. Exercise and lifestyle change will benefit the vast majority of persons with cancer and the majority can safely participate in various forms of exercise without danger but some persons are at risk for serious complications due to the effects of the cancer itself and/or radiation and oncology on blood values and/or bone and joints.

This has led to some angst over when community-based programs should be referring patients to skilled rehabilitation (occupational therapy and physical therapy) and when skilled rehabilitation professionals should be moving patients into community programs more quickly.

Our group met for just over 2 hours and began to document the various issues to be addressed and the questions to answer. We agreed to collaborate as a planning group and to move toward holding a  2 day consensus conference sometime in the first half of 2014. Occupational therapy professionals play a critical role with persons with cancer in managing fatigue and/or pain, in lifestyle redesign and in adapting exercise occupations or equipment to facilitate participation.

It is great that we have a seat at the table as these important discussions occur and standards are developed.

I would love to hear from anyone who has input or would like to share their experience or perspective as I learn more and continue to represent AOTA.


  • Brent,

    We are trying to start a program at University of Colorado Hospital where pts are referred more frequently to rehab or where we can be involved someway during their treatment process. We are starting more with the Breast cancer population, but are wanting to make it more broad depending on success. We are involved on the inpt side with BMT pts who are in for transplant, but have little contact with the pts prior or after they leave the hospital. I think this is a very important area that OTs need to have more involvement with. I would love to speak more with you about this and be involved with this group. If you can let me know how I can do this I would greatly appreciate it!


    erin Erickson

  • Erin, I would be happy to speak with you or connect you with an expert on my staff.

    My work email is bhbraveman@mdanderson.org


  • Greetings Brent-

    This is an interesting topic that I can certainly see needs to be addressed given the upcoming mandate for formal hospital cancer survivorship care plans.   As an OT I feel it would be imperative that we sit at the table with those planning the cancer survivorship care plans at various cancer centers so our services are placed as priorities for consideration.  I also feel that it would be of benefit for us to target community based centers so proper education behind screening for these services can take place.  Many of these community based centers are currently in the their planning processes for building survivorship programs to meet the needs of the oncology hospital referrals.  I feel that it would be beneficial for us to reach out to these settings during the forefront of their planning process to ensure these issues are addressed in a partnering manner.  I am hoping to partner with one of these community based settings during their survivorship planning to offer an experiential learning opportunity for OT students.  I am happy to brainstorm ideas with you further if you are interested.  

    Warmest Regards,

    Katie Polo


  • Katie,

    Thanks for your interest, I am happy to hear any thoughts that you have. This meeting is focused specifically on exercise but at MD Anderson we have many survivorship initiatives underway and OT needs to become more involved. There will be many new opportunities that arise in the area of oncology.