Over the past 10 years significant improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have meant that cancer survival is increasing and also the growth in our ageing population has also resulted in an increase in cancer incidence. With these two main factors, the number of cancer survivors is estimated to likely grow by over 3% per year (Macmillan Cancer Support, 2013).
Until recently the focus has been on treating cancer and little attention has been paid to the long-term consequences of having cancer, but the impact of cancer does not end after treatment. Studies have shown that cancer survivors often have poorer health and well-being than the general population and following cancer treatment many people are left with physical and emotional issues. Emotional issues may include anxiety, depression, isolation and negative feelings affecting self-confidence and self-image and physical issues can include fatigue and changes relating to treatment such as weight loss, hair loss, surgery (eg, mastectomy, head and neck surgeries) etc. Additionally it’s very common for cancer survivors to suffer a loss of income and/or increase in household costs as a result of cancer. All of these factors can have a negative effect on the well-being of people, long after their treatment has finished.
However there is now a cultural shift in the approach to the care and support of patients following cancer treatment, with a greater focus on improving the quality of life for people living with cancer and enable them to live a healthy and active life and resume everyday activities. This encompasses providing them with information and guidance about follow-up clinical care and physical and emotional changes – empowering the individual to take responsibility for their condition supported by appropriate ongoing medical support throughout their recovery and promotion of health and emotional well-being after cancer treatment.
In The Cancer Journey – Positive Steps to Help Yourself Heal we offer lots of helpful tips and suggestions about how to take back control of your life during and after a diagnosis of cancer. We also provide details about lots of sources and organisations that can offer information, support and guidance.