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UVM Cancer Center holds annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference

UVM Medical Center main entrance
Pat Bradley/WAMC
UVM Medical Center main entrance

The University of Vermont Cancer Center recently held its 24th annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference. The meeting, held virtually due to the pandemic, brought together experts on cancer detection and prevention, wellness and survivorship.

The University of Vermont Cancer Center has been holding the annual meeting to bring caregivers, patients and the community together to share experiences and clinical information.

Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard Page says the conference furthers the center’s patient-center care concept.

“This conference will update participants on several important and relevant topics including research affecting breast and other cancers, the role of the immune system in cancer and the use of complementary and integrative approaches to care. COVID itself has had an undeniable impact on cancer patients and their providers.”

University of Vermont Cancer Center Director Dr. Randall Holcombe has been a leader in cancer research for over 30 years and took the helm of Vermont’s center in the summer of 2021.

“Since 1974 the University of Vermont Cancer Center, clinicians and researchers have delivered compassionate and cutting edge care, worked to advance cancer research and uphold the commitment to our community," said Holcombe. "Our Women’s Health and Cancer Conference speak to health disparities, financial costs and patient and provider support because we are invested in identifying critical problems for the populations we serve and tailoring our programs to reduce the burden of cancer.”

Vermont Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine has been guiding the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He outlined the core topic areas of the new

2025 version of the Vermont Cancer Plan.

“First of all health equity, the fair and just opportunity to be healthy. And when we speak about equity we’re generally finding the populations that we historically have found do not have that same fair and just opportunity due to socio-economic disadvantages, historical injustices, other types of systemic inequalities," explained Levine. "We’re also going to be focusing on cancer prevention, cancer early detection, therapy, survivorship and advanced care planning.”

Dr. Levine then outlined the impact of the pandemic on cancer care.

“Significant delays in care occurred during the pandemic with regard to cancer treatment. Now some of these are because the patients weren’t accessing this. Some of this is because clinicians weren’t able to allow their patients to access this and there’s a whole host of other reasons." Levine added, "There are projections that have been made to indicate three to four thousand excess deaths may occur in areas related to breast, cervical and colorectal cancer because of the pandemic alone.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Rachel Greenup is chief of Breast Surgical Oncology at Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Breast Center at Yale New Haven, Connecticut. She said breast cancer remains a major public health and financial issue in the U.S. with 1 in 8 women diagnosed during their lifetime.

“Sadly the U.S. health system is the most complicated and expensive health system in the world. And we know by 2020 breast cancer costs alone estimated about $20 billion. Breast cancer patients are living longer," said Greenup. "When we think about breast cancer survivorship we have to wonder how improved survival results in higher costs for our patients and the health system.”

Breakout topics during the conference included discussions on the immune system, COVID & cancer, integrative approaches, wellness, multi-disciplinary breast cancer treatment and disparities in prevention, screening and survivorship.

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