In Action

How La Roche-Posay takes care of cancer patients’ skin

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Amélie Priollet

As Head of Oncology for La Roche-Posay in France, over the last three years Amélie Priollet has developed a new programme to support patients with cancer, particularly through suitable skincare products for their skin,often irritated or damaged from treatments. Today, she discusses her job and the challenges she has faced.

Combining dermatology and oncology for patients’ well-being

La Roche-Posay’s new programme stems from a simple wish: to create a link between dermatology and oncology to improve  thequality of life of patients and to better combat the disease. “Today, skincare can play a major role in limiting the side effects on the skin during cancer treatment. But it’s a new and relatively unknown field. Our aim is to make it a reality on the ground.”

As such, Amélie Priollet’s job is to reiterate the brand’s commitment by training health professionals and patients about the side effects on the skin and by raising awareness among the general public. Her challenge? “Developing multi-channel information to reach all those concerned: doctors, pharmacists, nurses, beauticians and cancer patients directly. A new and ambitious project for La Roche-Posay!”

Meeting health professionals

This support programme for cancer patients began several years ago in a hospital setting. In the hundred centres, clinics and hospitals in which the brand is present, including Gustave Roussy in Paris and the Lacassagne centre in Nice, Amélie’s teams train and raise awareness, working directly with health professionals.  “Complex work which works in two stages.”

The first consists in identifying the medical staff in each hospital in charge of supportive care for patients. “In one hospital, this work belongs to nurses or care workers, whilst in another, it’s the responsibility of beauty therapists who offer patient well-being treatments. So it’s important to find the right people to contact.” To do so, the brand starts by trying to understand how the hospital works and is organised. “Our hospital managers attend training meetings with teams from each department at the hospital. It’s an opportunity to create a relationship, to present the results of our studies and to understand how each department is organised to find out about the people with whom we’re going to work.”

The second step involves supporting medical staff on a daily basis. “We regularly take time discuss with them how to properly talk to patients, the treatments to provide, the products to be used, depending on the situation, and good habits to acquire. This ranges from moisturising products that repair the skin to corrective make-up, but also includes workshops on how to massage scars.” The main difficulty? Understanding the specific needs of each hospital. “For example, some are focused on sun care while others have real expertise in skincare. So the idea isn’t to impose ready-made recommendations but to work together to create the most suitable solutions!” Amélie Priollet adds: “This dialogue helps us build a relationship of trust with professionals, which is essential in progressing together and to better serve the patients.”

Practical information, beauty tips and sophrology sessions… how to help patients to feel better

Beyond talking to health professionals, it’s important to communicate directly with patients, so that they know that there are solutions to help them. “We focus on initiatives to help them to tackle the symptoms caused by their treatment, thushelping them to feel better over the long term. La Roche-Posay wants to help them maintain their confidence and self-esteem and to improve their quality of life as they live with the disease.”

As part of this, the brand has created a practical guide, distributed in pharmacies and hospitals, as well as a dedicated section called “My skin during cancer” on the brand’s website, to help patients improve their daily life. “It includes a list of tested products, practical advice on skincare during treatment and answers to questions which most patients ask: what should I do if my skin feels tight? If I lose my hair? Should I apply a balm or a cream before radiotherapy?” The brand offers a holistic approach as part of its support programme, including a sophrology section which encourages patients to relax regularly with audio sessions. “It’s a simple, revolutionary way to feel better! Short sessions from five to fifteen minutes help patients to relax, to destress and to take a step back from their daily life. Long sessions, lasting from fifteen to forty minutes, aim to help them prepare mentally, to let go of their worries before radiotherapy and chemotherapy and to help them recharge their batteries and build up their strength for recovery afterwards. Initial feedback is extremely positive!”

Having a tangible impact on people’s lives: Amélie Priollet’s personal success

La Roche-Posay’s work on the field is starting to pay dividends. Although the programme is still new, initial results are encouraging. “We feel that our efforts are paying off: 1,500 professionals have already been trained in France and the busiest professionals feel less helpless and better equipped to answer patients’ questions. That’s a real victory, a few months after the launch.”

But the biggest source of pride is its impact on patients’ lives. “I can still clearly remember a training day we had with some bloggers who write on this subject and who have been diagnosed with the disease themselves. During the session, one of them thanked us for thinking of them and for having undertaken this project. It’s proof that our work is really meaningful.” Amélie Priollet concludes: “It’s quite rare to experience that during one’s career. And that’s the best reason to keep going.”

Innovation | July 2017