Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. This is a disease that touches us all at some point in our lives and it’s estimated that half of all people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.
Living with cancer can be one of the biggest challenges we face and it’s not always easy to manage the emotional and physical challenges that it may bring. It’s also true that cancer can affect all parts of your life, from changing your routines and relationships, to changing your appearance and making you feel anxious, afraid, and overwhelmed. In this article, we will give you some useful information on getting the support you need as well as how we can all work towards supporting people living with cancer.
Some facts and figures
Each year, worldwide, there are over 14.4 million new cancer diagnoses and more than 8 million people die of cancer, of which 4 million die prematurely (between 30 to 69 years old). The four most common forms of cancer are lung, female breast, bowel and prostate cancer (representing 53% of new diagnoses in the UK). Globally, 33% of all cancers are linked to tobacco smoke and in the UK four in ten cancers are caused by lifestyle factors.
In the UK alone, there are over 350,000 new cases of cancer each year. Cancer is also a disease of age: the risk of developing cancer increases with age with half of all cancer cases being in people over 70 years old, with the highest incidence in people over 85 years old.
Although incidence rates for most types of cancer in the UK are set to rise between 2017 and 2035, cancer survival in the UK has doubled from 24% to 50% in the last 40 years. What’s more, 50% of people survive cancer for 10 or more years in England and Wales. With more and more people living with and surviving cancer, it’s vital that the available support is accessed and that any person living with cancer has the high quality of life they deserve.
All statistics are from Cancer Research UK. To find out more about worldwide and UK statistics on cancer, click here.
Communication and care
Cancer affects everyone differently. Two people may experience very different symptoms and may react differently to their diagnosis. It’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s experience with cancer is unique and we must advocate personalised care plans tailored to the specific needs and symptoms of the person receiving care. When possible, patients should decide how much help they want and what type of support they need.
Learning more about how you can help yourself can help you feel in control when faced with a cancer diagnosis but the support you receive from others is also essential. For this, communication is key!
Communicating with your care team
By working together with your care team and loved ones you can make sure you know what to expect following treatment. Your care team includes your doctors, nurses, carers, and other specialists such as nutritionists and physiotherapists. It is important to maintain an open-line of communication with everyone involved. By ensuring that you are well informed, you and your loved ones can make any necessary plans, lifestyle changes, and important decisions ahead of time. This also ensures that your wishes are respected and it is easier to make difficult decisions.
The following points should always be respected in your relationship with your care team:
It should be a relationship built on trust – you should feel comfortable asking any questions you may have
Time should always be given to talk through feelings and concerns
You should feel satisfied and in control of your decisions, even if cancer itself can be unpredictable
You should be able to receive as much information as you want
The role of family caregivers
Family caregivers act as partners in communication and can help ease communication problems that you may experience as well as acting as you advocate. Family-centered communication with home care staff helps the family understand and be more confident in their role as a caregiver.
This approach helps drive decision making, coordination and continuity of care, and most importantly, effective communication. It can help ensure that you are fully informed if you misunderstand anything or have not thought of particular questions. A family caregiver may also ask questions that you are too afraid to ask.
In general, bringing someone with you to appointments can be a great help. It can be an emotionally-taxing time receiving a cancer diagnosis and discussing treatment and having someone there so that you are not going through it alone can make a world of difference.
From a medical perspective it’s important to know the details of the cancer diagnosis, including things such as the name, size, location, progression, available treatments and side-effects, and the overall prognosis. However, it is understandable that you may not want to know all of the details of your diagnosis and treatment – and that is perfectly alright. If that is the case it can be useful for your friend or family member to act as your advocate and help explain anything to you later on that you may want to know
Parents also take on the role of advocate when it is their younger child who has received a diagnosis. They are sensitive to their child’s emotions and reactions and can explain things at their level according to what is right for their child’s age and needs. Furthermore, they can also encourage and empower their child.
Family-centered communication can be particularly important if the care staff and patient do not speak the same language or if there are cultural differences. Most services have trained interpreters but family caregivers can help improve this process and communication problems.
Here are some useful points to consider if you have recently received a cancer diagnosis or if you are a family caregiver:
Keep a file or notebook of medical information in order to track important dates for procedures, appointments, results, and other records
Make a list of questions and concerns to ask at appointments in case you forget
Schedule longer appointments if needed so you can discuss things in more detail with the doctor or another member of the care team
Always consider what your or your loved one’s particular needs or wishes are regarding care
For more information on cancer support, visit macmillan.org.uk, the UK’s leading charity for cancer support.
If you’re looking for support for yourself or a loved one, take a look at how our cancer home care could potentially help ease the burden.
Live Better with Cancer
Liver Better With is here to make everyday living a little better for the millions of people living with cancer all over the world. They handpick their products with the cancer community to help ease symptoms and side effects, and improve the quality of day-to-day life. They offer support and guidance beyond medical treatment, with recommended non-medical products grouped into how you might be feeling (e.g. “Feeling sick” or “Can’t Sleep”), so it’s easy to discover all the relevant and helpful things that have worked for others with the same need as you.
Share the code LBWMP1 with your client to get £5 on Live Better With’s website.
Find more information with our article about cancer care planning.