The BCAN Survivorship Working Group (SWG) was formed in 2009 and for the last five years has been a focal point for survivor education projects and research to understand the quality of life of survivors and their caregivers. A poster summarizing the group’s work won 2nd prize on May 29, 2014 at the annual meeting of the Association of Oncology Social Work (www.aosw.org) in Baltimore, MD.
Social workers are an important resource for bladder cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. However, many social workers have limited familiarity with the needs of persons living with bladder cancer. One of the primary goals of presenting the SWG’s work at the meeting was to raise the visibility of bladder cancer among oncology social workers. We also wanted to acquaint social workers with the resources BCAN and the SWG have developed, including the new patient handbook and tip sheets. BCAN provided computer thumb drives with these documents, copies of the poster, and previous research presentations to conference attendees who stopped by the poster.
Social work has a unique role to play in supporting bladder cancer patients, survivors, family, and caregivers. Social work’s emphasis on social and economic justice can lead to advocating for redress in disparities in diagnosis and treatment for women and African-Americans. Social work also can have a strong voice in advocating for workers with possible environmental exposure to bladder carcinogens.
Social workers are highly experienced clinicians who can provide psychosocial support, community resources, patient teaching, and specialized counseling in smoking cessation and sex therapy as needed.
Lastly, social workers are experienced policymakers who can lead macro-level interventions to increase funding for bladder cancer treatment and research and advocate for reductions in environmental factors that can lead to greater bladder cancer incidence.
In addition to continuing the education and research projects in the SWG, the social workers in the group will continue to be active participants in the Association of Oncology Social Work. More oncology social workers are needed to address this complex disease, including participation in interdisciplinary care teams in cancer centers, community-based organizations, and other settings.
David Latini, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Urology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He is also a clinical psychologist and program evaluator for the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations and Baylor College of Medicine. David Latini is co-chair of the Survivorship Working Group at BCAN’s Bladder Cancer Think Tank and is a member of BCAN’s Scientific Advisory Board.