Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

The role of advocacy in cancer survivorship

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I was not at all clear on what makes someone a ‘cancer survivor’. Initially I took it to mean someone who has been successfully treated for cancer, is now getting back to full health and looking forward to the next stage of their life.  In reality it is much more complex and that is only one part.  A cancer survivor may be ‘living with cancer’, they may be undergoing treatment and they may be living with the consequences of their treatment.

The aim of the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI) is helpful:

To ensure that those living with and beyond cancer get the care and support they need to lead as healthy and active a life as possible, for as long as possible.

On reading NCSI’s recent report Living with and beyond cancer: Taking action to improve outcomes  I discovered that the promotion of cancer survivorship begins at diagnosis and continues throughout the cancer pathway.  I immediately saw how advocacy support could be a key tool at every stage.

The report itself is intended to assist the NHS Commissioning Board, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Commissioning Support Units to meet the needs of and to benefit patients living with cancer.  It calls for people affected by cancer ‘to have an increased understanding of what the cancer journey may look like, to have the knowledge to make informed decisions, to know who can help them and to have confidence in what they need to do to help themselves, with appropriate clinical and social support.’

That paragraph alone summaries many of the outcomes identified for the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project.  More crucially the report makes explicit the need for a change in mindset among professionals to enable people affected by cancer to be empowered in this way:

‘Underpinning the recommendations…is the need to promote a cultural shift in professionals towards shared decision making and supporting patient self-management’.

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