Onco-Geriatric service provides specialised care for cancer patients

Edited - Onco Geriatric

When Tony Mason, was diagnosed with cancer in July, he thought it meant regular travel from his home in Tatura, in Greater Shepparton, to Melbourne to receive treatment.

Instead, the 74 year old only had to travel the 167 kilometres once before he was referred to Goulburn Valley Health to be treated closer to home.

“It was an interesting exercise travelling to Melbourne in the middle of a pandemic. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time,” says Tony.

Fortunately, newly embraced telehealth technologies mean Tony, and many others in regional areas, can now receive the required specialised care in their local area.

Delivering care to the regions    

In August, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne established a new Onco-Geriatric service that offers specialised care to older Victorians with cancer.

Led by Dr Richard Kane, Clinical Director of Geriatric Medicine, Home & Community Services in partnership with Associate Professor Sue-Anne McLachlan, Director of Cancer Services and Goulburn Valley’s Health Clinical Director of Medical Oncology, Dr Javier Torres, the service is one of the first of its kind in Victoria, delivering comprehensive assessment directly to patients in the Goulburn Valley.

“Previously, Goulburn Valley residents, like Tony, had no access to this service locally and would either need to travel long distances or miss out altogether. Through telehealth appointments, we can ensure they can access critical care much closer to home,” says Dr Kane.

Operating out of St Vincent’s Cancer Centre, the clinic also offers face-to-face and telehealth consults for patients in Melbourne. In its five months of operation, the team has provided specialised services for some 50 Victorians across the state.

Specialised care to improve outcomes

The team aims to improve outcomes by optimising patients’ general health and assisting the patient and their oncologist with decisions about their cancer treatment.

Dr Kane says this model of care is now recognised as best practice internationally.

“Research shows there are many improvements in patient care, including better prediction of treatment side-effects and the detection and management of problems that may not previously have been identified in routine cancer care,” he adds. 

Tony says that he experienced limited side-effects through his intensive six-week round of treatment managed by Goulburn Valley Health in collaboration with the Onco-Geriatric Clinic. At the completion of Tony’s curative intent chemoradiotherapy, Tony received good reports and will now undergo twice weekly immunotherapy for the next 12 months.

“My experience with the service has been fantastic. It’s a great asset to the Goulburn Valley,” says Tony.