A world-first project that uses photos to learn about a cancer patient's identity and environment is being trialled on the Border.
The Border Medical Oncology Research Unit has teamed up with the La Trobe University John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research to run the study aimed at improving the supportive care of patients aged over 70 years at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre.
The project, titled Geriatric Oncology in the Instagram Era, has received a $20,000 grant from the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust Fund with half of that funding coming from the estate of cancer patient Lorraine Dick.
Oncologist Christopher Steer said study participants will be asked to supply four photos to the project that best represented their identity, home environment, what's important to them as well as their mode of transport.
The photos will then be used to interview the patient.
IN OTHER NEWS:
This interview will be about their priorities, barriers and amount of support available to them to help tailor a care management plan that best supports their individual needs.
Dr Steer believes this type of geriatric assessment has never been done in oncology before.
"Photos have become a really easy way of communicating," he said.
"And we want to use that as a way of getting to know our patients better and enhancing their supportive care.
"Research has shown that geriatric assessment makes supportive care more age-specific, improves communication about age-related concerns, reduces treatment toxicity and improves quality of life."
Dr Steer said about half of the patients seen at Border Medical Oncology were aged 70 or older, which is around 800 new patients a year.
About 20 patients will be recruited for the study.
Chair of La Trobe's John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research Irene Blackberry said the trust funding builds their research capacity and enables UNSW medical and La Trobe University social work students to be involved in the study.
"This research is novel because the photovoice research method is yet to be trialled to complement clinical care," she said.
"In our study, photovoice methodology is expected to complement geriatric assessment and clinical decision making to ensure that enhanced supportive care is person-centered."
The research will be conducted over a 30 week period with the final report due in October.
The project builds on a previous study undertaken by the research unit, also funded by the trust fund, which used an electronic survey to assess patients over the age of 70.