Categories: The Latest in Health

World Cancer Day 2019

Help spread the word!

Feb 4th, 2019 marks the 20th World Cancer Day (WCD) – a day that aims to bring people, communities and countries together to raise awareness and take action in the global fight against cancer.

It’s easy to get blasé about all the different awareness-raising days, thinking ‘that’s nothing to do with me’. However, with someone getting diagnosed every two minutes in the UK, the reality is that none of us will escape the impact of cancer. Cancer is something to do with all of us. Even more so for healthcare workers.

You can make a difference

The theme of this year’s WCD is ‘I Am and I Will’. In a nutshell, the campaign is aiming to empower each and everyone one of us to commit to doing what we can to raise awareness of cancer.

This message is particularly important for you. As a healthcare worker, regardless of what clinical area you work in, you will care for people with cancer. Hopefully you will have access to a team of specialist nurses and doctors, but your involvement is important too; You too, can take an active role in educating patients, family and friends about all aspects of living with cancer.

Nurses and other health and social care staff can all help to:  

  • Spread the word: never has so much health information been readily available: the internet is full of well-meaning advice and myths about cancer. But how much is backed up by evidence or even vaguely true? Imagine how confusing it must be if you, or someone you loved, have recently been diagnosed with the ‘Big C’ – you search online and within 5 minutes are bombarded by conflicting sources of information.

As a professional, you can help guide your patients through the maze by directing them to respected websites whose information will be current and reliable (such as Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Cancer Support). You can also advise patients not to believe everything they read online about treatments and their side effects.

As well as looking online, patients often want more local sources of support and information – this is when it’s good for you to know what’s available in your area.  For example, are there specialist nurses and if so how can you refer someone? Is there a Maggie’s centre locally, or if not are there any other charities offering complementary therapies?  

  • Stay informed: without doubt, the more informed you are, the more you will be able to support your patients. This doesn’t mean you need to become an expert in all areas of cancer, more than you know what’s in your remit. For example, if you want to feel confident when you are referring patients to local sources of support, you need to know that your information is up-to-date. Remember though, you work in a team so try working with some colleagues to develop a system which ensures you all have access to the right information.

On the clinical front, you can’t possibly learn about every cancer out there. Even nurse specialists are only experts for a small range of conditions. But, you may want to increase your knowledge and skills on the types of cancer you are more likely to encounter as well as some more general subjects such as pain and symptom control, care of the dying etc.

There are a range of courses available on Skills platform to boost your learning.

    • Take action: you are in a good position to speak up for your patients’ rights and wellbeing. Remember that cancer affects everyone – so think about how you would you want to be treated. Cancer, like many other disabilities, does not rob an individual of their need to be treated in an inclusive and dignified way. The language you, and other caregivers use can play a vital role in gaining your patients respect.

    A recent poll from Macmillan Cancer Support found that cancer patients don’t want to be described as ‘fighters, heroes or victims’ and many could not relate to words such as ‘battling or ‘fighting.’ So, remember to engage with the person in front of you, not just what you think ‘ a cancer patient’ needs or wants to hear.

    For more advice about speaking to someone with cancer / things to avoid saying have a look at Macmillan Cancer Support’s website.

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