The Tucson Cancer Action Network (TCAN) is a community collaborative of health providers and cancer survivors focused on improving the health and wellbeing of those affected by cancer. A partner of the Arizona Cancer Coalition, a team led by the Arizona Department of Health Services focused on reducing cancer burden, this grass-roots effort emerged from an initial conversation in 2010 about the need for those working in cancer care to come together to identify service gaps and needs, share information about the state of cancer care in southern Arizona, and to act to improve the care being delivered. In 2014, we expanded the group to include survivors, their families and their friends, believing that together we can create a stronger, more vibrant and effective community.
To facilitate our work, TCAN holds biannual, half-day workshops that combine networking, education and therapeutic session experiences to provide an opportunity for survivors and a broad array of health-care providers and therapists to share information and connect with groups and services that can improve how we make recommendations and decisions about healthy living beyond a cancer diagnosis. The Office of Professional and Community Engagement at the University of Arizona College of Nursing hosts and organizes TCAN meetings, while local charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing cancer care typically provide meeting support.
Between meetings, TCAN participants create small workgroups and task forces to address a broad range of prioritized needs. Projects have previously included:
- Advocating for policy changes necessary to improve access to care
- Creating new support groups
- Expanding available services for patients and survivors (e.g., housing options, counseling)
- Supporting statewide needs assessments
These groups are determined by the membership of TCAN and by the discussions that arise during the biannual community meeting.
Roundtable discussions provide an open forum for attendees to dialog and collaborate around cancer care service issues, identify prioritized or critical needs in our community, and recommend strategies that would improve cancer care services in southern Arizona. Discussion topics vary at each TCAN meeting, often in response to a current question posed by the Arizona Cancer Coalition or the national Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (CCP). In addition to providing input and recommendations for action by the CCP, these roundtable sessions provide the impetus for community action. The most recent TCAN roundtable discussion focused on identifying and reducing barriers to cancer care services across various populations in southern Arizona.
Information booths at TCAN offer participants the opportunity to learn about local community cancer resources and services. Local and national organizations and vendors send representatives to TCAN meetings in order to raise awareness about their resources, services and support in our community.
With increasing evidence and options to improve wellbeing across survivorship, education is always a key to reducing barriers to care and decreasing health disparities. Therefore, TCAN meetings always feature a speaker focused on innovative ways to reduce suffering and improve quality of life. The spring TCAN meeting features lifestyle modifications that can improve health and function while the fall TCAN meetings most often focus on integrative therapeutics and how these strategies are often used to improve quality of life and decrease symptom burden.
These educational sessions are interactive; attendees are invited to dialog with our expert presenters, fostering greater understanding and collaboration between health-care providers and survivors and their families. Continuing education through the College of Nursing is offered for the professional attendees at these sessions.
Therapeutic Session Experiences
Therapeutic session experiences at TCAN meetings allow attendees to sample various integrative therapies. Led by credentialed and distinguished practitioners, these sessions familiarize health-care providers with therapies practiced by a growing number of cancer patients, and they provide survivors an occasion to “try out” and make informed decisions about whether a specific therapy is appropriate for their situation. Recent therapeutic session experiences at TCAN events include yoga and relaxation therapy.