Posted on behalf of the Soft Tissue Sarcoma Guideline Task Force
ASTRO’s latest clinical practice guideline, Radiation Therapy for Treatment of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in Adults, was published on July 26, 2021, in Practical Radiation Oncology. ASTRO’s first guideline on soft tissue sarcoma (STS) provides guidance on the use of radiation therapy to treat adult patients. Recommendations outline optimal radiation dosing, techniques and treatment planning for patients with localized, operable STS of the trunk and extremities, with a focus on preserving long-term functionality through individualized care. The guideline additionally addresses the role for radiation therapy for retroperitoneal sarcoma.
The guideline was developed through a systematic literature review of articles published from January 1980 through September 2020. The multidisciplinary task force included radiation, medical, orthopedic and surgical oncologists, a radiation oncology resident, a pathologist, a medical physicist and a patient representative. And, new to ASTRO guidelines, this guideline includes an appendix of reflections written by the patient representative that provides guidance to current patients and recommendations for oncology providers.
We encourage you to read the full guideline in PRO and listen to the podcast. And here, we specifically spotlight the recommendations written by the task force patient representative, Maria Voermans, BS, to oncology providers. These valuable insights serve as a reminder that patient-centered care should always lead our work.
Patient to Provider Recommendations
Excerpt from Radiation Therapy for Treatment of Soft Tissue Sarcoma in Adults: An ASTRO Clinical Practice Guideline
- Do not make assumptions about a patient based on what you see in terms of current life situation. This is particularly crucial in conversations surrounding long term effects on fertility as a result of treatment. A patient may be married with children but to assume that he or she does not want the opportunity to explore fertility preservation methods is erroneous.
- Encourage your patients to bring with them a support person or two to help listen and take notes at important visits. No matter how medically savvy a patient seems, absorbing personal medical information once a cancer diagnosis is received can be extremely overwhelming, and having at least one additional set of ears to take in and take down the information presented by the medical team is vital to information retention.
- Be supportive if your patient wants to pursue a second opinion. After all, the treatment of their cancer could have significant long-term impact on the rest of their life. The last thing a patient should deal with when navigating the treatment decision making process is feeling guilty that they may offend their medical team by exploring a second opinion. A second opinion is not indicative of mistrust or lack of respect for your medical abilities, rather it is a chance for patients to feel that they have some control over their own situation, and in many cases it is an opportunity for patients to get confirmation that they are making the best decision for themselves.
- Engage your patients as part of the team by including them in the decision-making process.
- Be cautious when throwing around medical jargon. Although you may be used to saying these terms dozens of times per day, patients are not always used to hearing it, especially in the beginning, and it can provoke anxiety.
- Encourage your patients to seek out psych-oncology support. Regardless of a patient’s seemingly firm grasp on their mental health, receiving a cancer diagnosis is devastating. Often, patients do not realize the extent of their own anxiety until they talk to a professional trained to deal with the emotions surrounding cancer.
- Recognize and respect the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) patient population and learn about the myriad of resources available to this group.
- If you would like your patients to stay off the internet, provide reputable online resources if they want to research their diagnosis/treatment plan. They will feel empowered.
- Do not be afraid to talk about sexual side effects. Your patients may be afraid to ask, but they want to know what to expect and how to manage it.
Access the full guideline, published in Practical Radiation Oncology.
Read ASTRO’s news release.
Listen to the podcast.