Improving Care for Cancer Patients & Improving Survivorship

More than 1 million people living in Australia have had been diagnosed with cancer. This number is expected to increase (with estimates as high as 38% increase for the 2015-2025 period).

This trend is already expected because more people are living longer (infectious diseases and other causes for unexpected death are becoming less of a problem). After all, increasing age is one of the biggest risk factors in getting cancer. In addition, the entire population is getting older which is why more resources are being placed now into cancer healthcare and medical research facilities (e.g. over $252 million in funding to cancer research in 2016 to 2018).

Improving care for cancer patients

Scientists, geneticists and medical specialists are busy finding new and more effective ways for early detection and treatment of cancer. But while waiting, we have to first focus on more immediate concerns such as providing better care for cancer patients and improving cancer survivorship rate.

The first principle is often about providing person-centred care. Patients should always have timely and relevant information regarding their individual circumstances. This includes information about the treatments available. The goal here is to empower patients and allow them to have a higher level of participation in getting treatment.

Aside from the healthcare and treatment itself, another important aspect is the social support (coming from families and friends). Complete recovery is uncertain (and there’s a chance of recurrence and undesirable side effects) which is why the entire process is trying especially to the patients. As a result, healthcare facilities also pay attention to better accommodating the guests and families of patients. This way the environment would be more friendly, comfortable and natural.

Another important aspect is about the patients’ general mobility and activity. Many cancer patients are elderly (age is a big cancer risk factor) and most of these patients are forced to withdraw from their careers, businesses and social lives. This then creates a void and actually makes the treatment more painful than necessary. The chance to live a normal life is already lost early on.

That’s why it’s also important to prioritise the patients’ comfort and mobility (especially if the patient will spend extended periods of time in a chair or bed). It’s also advisable that patients are allowed to show their independence and control. This can be somehow accomplished by helping patients move without too much assistance from a family member or caregiver.

The ultimate priority is still on the patients’ total recovery. But we must also pay attention to the overall experience of each patient. The transition is never smooth but their lives can be somehow made easier by focusing on their individual needs and making sure they still feel comfortable and somehow independent whether they’re staying at the hospital or at home.

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