29 September 2015- A total of 30 people attended a talk entitled ‘Caring for the Terminally Ill: The Responsibilities of an Oncology Pharmacists’ was held at Room 1.10 in International Medical University Bukit Jalil Campus. The talk is a joint effort of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society – Young Pharmacist Chapter (MPS-YPC) and IMU Alumni. Elaine Kan Mei Ying, the speaker of the talk, shared her passion and interest in handling cancer patients. Elaine is currently working in an oncology ward in Hospital Kuala Lumpur since 2013. She graduated from International Medical University (IMU) in 2009 and did her pre-registration at National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau. She has special interest in oncology and finds it challenging as it evolves rapidly and treatments change day by day.
In this talk, she talked about how cancer develops, which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably as compared to normal cells and spread to other parts of body. According to National Cancer Society Malaysia, cancer is considered as the 3rd leading cause of premature death in Malaysia. However, only 30-40% of all deaths from cancer are medically reported.
Elaine shared in the talk that the cytotoxic drugs are individualised for each patient and it is hazardous in nature, thus only trained personnel could handle it. The audience were also exposed to how cancer drugs are being prepared and how pharmacists do the counter-checking and its importance to prevent medication error. Besides, oncology pharmacists also act as health educators by providing counselling on the treatment regimen, treatment goal and cancer pain management. By talking to the patient, the pharmacist gets to know the background of patient and any herbals or supplements taken that might disrupt the cancer drug.
Patient tends to be anxious and lost upon being diagnosed with cancer. As a pharmacist, it is important to listen to the patient on how they feel, which could be a great support for them. Pharmacists would help them understand the treatment process and what to be expected. Assisting patients in treatment goals would be helpful to prevent patients from having unrealistic expectations.
The goals are divided into 3 categories: cure, control and comfort. If the patient understands that the cure is possible, they will be willing to endure more short-term effects. However, if the cancer is at a later stage or previous treatment was unsuccessful, the goal will be adjusted to control the cancer. In the case where cancer is at advanced stage, comfort will be provided to the patient such as being free of pain or symptoms. Understanding their treatment goals would prevent them from having unrealistic expectation due to knowledge deficit.
Not only focusing on the treatment knowledge, pharmacist also gives suggestions to patient on how to adjust their life to the side effects such as wearing a cap during hair loss or avoid big meals during chemo drug infusion to reduce nausea and vomiting. To help patient in taking care of their work during treatment, they can take home infusion 5-FU (as shown) safely and comfortably. This is a balloon pump that squeezes the drug out of the balloon through tubing in blood stream, normally chemo port. This has provided patient with so much convenience. Before the talk ended, the audience took the opportunity to ask questions to clear their doubts. Through the feedback form, majority of the audience find the talk to be beneficial and enlightening. The session ended with the presentation of certificate as token of appreciation to the speaker by Anitha Ramadas, the secretary of Malaysia Pharmaceutical Society, Young Pharmacy Chapter.