Oncology Partnership Stays Strong

UW-CTRI outreach staff have continued to work alongside Wisconsin Oncology Network cancer centers to educate providers on how to help patients quit tobacco use. This project is made possible by funding from the UW Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The partnership began in 2014 with a baseline survey of cancer clinics to assess their needs. Outreach specialists reached out to the cancer clinics to offer on-site training and technical assistance.

“The initial survey results were mixed. A lot of clinics haven’t done as much as they could have to help their patients quit smoking. Often times, they did not feel comfortable addressing tobacco with their patients,” Southern Regional Outreach Specialist Amy Skora said.

Skora has worked primarily with UW Health’s oncology clinic in Madison and Mercy Health’s oncology clinic in Janesville, providing tobacco-treatment training and education for the oncology clinic staff.

Some methods include helping clinicians send contact information for their patients to the Quit Line, leading to higher connectivity rates.

“Cancer centers are unique in that they are already offering counseling for the patients going through treatment, so there are a lot of people who are already trained to give counseling and support,” Southeastern Regional Outreach Specialist Allie Gorrilla said. “The challenge is that often times patients receive diagnoses and they tend to undergo treatment right away, so the recommendation to quit smoking has to be made immediately.”

Much of the assistance includes on-site education. Northeastern Regional Outreach Specialist Roger Dier will be conducting workshops and presenting in May to providers at St. Vincent Hospital in Oshkosh. Providers will learn coaching strategies that will help patients who are willing to make a quit attempt, and they also will learn motivational interviewing techniques that can provoke contemplation in patients who are unwilling to quit.

“It’s got to be really challenging for providers to convince their patients that quitting smoking will give them the best chance of survival, but it will,” Dier said. “The big challenge is to give those providers the tools to do that.”

Outreach specialists plan to continue reaching out to providers to make the case for using evidence-based strategies from the Department of Health and Human Services Clinical Practice guidelines. The partnership will hopefully conduct a follow-up survey with the sites to assess what their needs currently are.

“We are willing to help the cancer centers in any way that we can to continue the work we already have done,” said Western Regional Outreach Specialist Kris Hayden.