Cancer Council SA research has identified that people can be affected by cancer long after doctors have given the ‘all clear’, prompting the development of a new South Australia-based program, Managing Cancer Stress.
Symptoms of distress have been identified in around 40 per cent of people with cancer – prompting it to be recognised as the sixth vital sign in assessing wellbeing.
Details of Cancer Council SA’s initiative, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, identify the program as an effective intervention for people with cancer and their carers, helping reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness-based approaches were originally developed for people experiencing chronic pain and stress-related disorders, but Cancer Council SA’s pilot study recognises its effectiveness in the cancer setting.
"There is considerable evidence that many people affected by cancer suffer from substantial long-term psychological distress, which may include symptoms of anxiety and depression," says Jacqueline Bowden, co-author and Manager of Behavioural Research and Evaluation, Cancer Council SA.
"As cancer survival rates continue to improve, there is an increasing need to support people affected and their carers through all stages of the cancer journey."
The eight week group program, involving weekly two hour sessions and 45 minutes homework on most days is best suited to those who are nearing the end of their cancer treatment or have completed it.
Participants explore new ways of managing difficult thoughts and emotions resulting from their cancer experience.
"This ‘mindfulness’ approach is about being able to take a non-judgemental attitude to whatever is happening and connecting fully to the present moment – an approach believed to be particularly valuable when facing the challenges of cancer," says Dr Vikki Knott, co-author and Senior Project Officer, Cancer Council SA.
"We want to help arm South Australians with the best coping skills they can to apply to everyday experiences, post cancer.
"This research is another important step in recognising that optimal care of cancer patients includes effective psychosocial support."
The Managing Cancer Stress program is available free of charge to eligible people who are affected by cancer, including carers and family members.
NB: This program is not designed to replace specialised psychological treatment for people diagnosed with depression. It is to address day-to-day distress associated with cancer.
(Source: Cancer Council South Australia: Medical Journal of Australia)