Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Be aware that people may come from a ‘fragile environment’

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I recently told Dr Sean Weaver, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Royal Bournemouth Hospital about the aims of Dorset Cancer Advocacy.  He agreed that it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone facing cancer has a support network of family and friends ready and able to rally around.  It can be difficult for a doctor to inform someone of their diagnosis when they are attending that appointment alone.  People’s reactions vary greatly and can at times be cause for concern.  He thought that the presence of a volunteer advocate could be helpful especially where someone is from, as he termed it, ‘a fragile environment’.

Dr Weaver’s public talk on 8 May entitled Focus on Bowel Cancer was part of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Governor Constituency Health Talks.  I displayed information about our service and two of our volunteer advocates also attended.

Dr Weaver said we are fortunate in Dorset to have a very fit older population.  Furthermore Dorset has the highest uptake of bowel cancer screening in the country.  He emphasised that his recommendations for both investigation and treatment were based on consideration of a person’s physical fitness, always taking into account any other conditions they had, and would not be decided by their age.

The statistics he quoted for good outcomes were encouraging.  If you are invited for screening and sent a test kit ‘Get on and do it’ he urged – don’t think about it for a month as most people seem to do.  If bowel cancer is diagnosed ‘Don’t panic, stay calm, let us do our job’ he said, ‘We come to work because we can stop people dying of these cancers.’

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