Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Helping the growing numbers of cancer survivors to help themselves and to live well

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In response to the announcement by Macmillan Cancer Support that the proportion of people surviving cancer has doubled since 1992 Radio 4’s World at One on Friday 7 June considered what support is available for them.

Increasing numbers of people are living with the effects of having had tough cancer treatments and although they are cured still have the uncertainty that their cancer may come back.  Those with a cancer that has come back may live with a chronic condition and the impact of on and off treatment programmes.

The programme asked

How can the system cope with the growing numbers?

How should people be followed up?

Who should provide follow up?

What type of follow up is best in an acute hospital setting and what in a community setting?

Laura Lee, Chief Executive of Maggie’s was invited to comment and explained how Maggie’s Centres aim to provide comprehensive support to people affected by cancer including family, friends and carers. The centres offer ‘a pioneering approach that integrates professional help with a community of support in thoughtfully designed centres, a combination that is proving highly effective in alleviating the emotional distress and practical difficulties that cancer brings.’

maggies

But with only 14 such centres in the UK to date Ms Lee sees the solution for the majority in self help:

‘There is’, she said, ‘a way of educating people with cancer about what they can do to help themselves, about how they can play an active role in their follow up, about how they can use the NHS system to best effect. There are a lot of efficiencies that we can put into the system by better educating and supporting family and friends of those going through a cancer diagnosis.’ You can follow @MaggiesCentres on Twitter.

I believe that one to one independent advocacy support can help to achieve this goal alongside such centres and the traditional support groups.  Advocacy seeks to empower people to become better informed, to identify what living well means to them, to have the confidence to speak up for themselves, and to tap into the resources of their local community for social support.  The Cancer, Older people and Advocacy project will ensure that older people are active participants in their follow up.

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