Tag Archives: Cancer

Helping young people rebuild their lives after cancer

A digital program to support young people adjusting to life after cancer has been awarded $1.37 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Dawn collaborator Professor Sandie McCarthy, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work is leading the project BALANCE, which will be developed by UQ in partnership with cancer support organisation Canteen.

Professor McCarthy said the aim of the digital program was to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of young people treated for cancer by giving them the knowledge and skills to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Surviving cancer does not necessarily mean younger people can return to their former state of health – they must work at it,” Professor McCarthy said.

“Young people need mental health strategies to manage the distress associated with their cancer experience.

“As the program is driven by the needs of young people, it will be designed and delivered in consultation with them.”

For more information about BALANCE, contact Professor McCarthy at s.mccarthy@uq.edu.au

Video courtesy of Channel 10 News, airing 8 October 2021

 

The BALANCE program is supported by:

UQ Balance Program Supporters

Sexuality and Relationships after Cancer

Cancer doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed it has an impact on the people who are closest to them and it can also be very stressful for their partners. For many partners there will be a period of shock, anxiety and fear until they have adjusted to the situation. There are many tricky topics for couples to negotiate during diagnosis, through treatment, and beyond and one of those topics is sexuality and intimacy.

Being close to someone who has been diagnosed and treated for cancer can impact on all aspects of the relationship including the sexual and intimate relationship of a couple. There may be a number of concerns, including resuming sexual activity because you are afraid of hurting your partner, or concerned that initiating sex is inappropriate when they are feeling tired or unwell. You may be worried about showing shock at scar or other bodily changes due to treatments, or anxious that the chemotherapy and radiotherapy could have an effect on you. It may be that you are worried about the future and are fearful of losing your partner. All of these issues may play a role in diminished sexual intimacy.

Equally your partner may be concerned about whether you will still find her attractive, how you see her now, and if you will be comparing things to how they were before. These concerns are common, and you may be both making assumptions about how the other feels without knowing it. Communication with your partner is key and taking the time to discuss how she feels about intimacy, and when she thinks a good time might be to resume sexual activity. It is important to have an open and honest conversation that remains supportive to discuss fears and worries you both have, dispel some myths  and how you will overcome them and potentially show affection in other ways.

If you can relate to some of these points, it is really important to chat to a health professional, there are often simple strategies to help address these problems.

Below are some resources that may also be helpful:

https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/impact-breast-cancer-sexuality-and-intimacy

https://www.petermac.org/services/support-services/cancersurvivorship/survdirect/sex-and-intimacy

https://www.cancervic.org.au/living-with-cancer/sexuality-and-intimacy/sexuality-and-intimacy-overview

https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/sex-and-cancer

https://breastcancernow.org/sites/default/files/intimacy_and_sexuality_for_cancer_patients_and_their_partners.pdf

Janine Porter-Steele

Janine is The Clinical Nurse Manager of the Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre in Brisbane.  The centre offers support, sharing and information for women, men and their families affected by a diagnosis of cancer. For many years Janine has also been actively involved with the Women’s Wellness Research Programs as manager,  delivering the programs, supporting the development of resources, and co-writing a number of the journals.

Janine undertook much of her training in the UK as a registered nurse, midwife, health visitor and family planning nurse. She completed a Bachelor of Nursing at QUT, a Masters in Nursing Leadership at ACU and she is also Breast Care and Women’s Health Nurse. Janine believes very strongly in providing interdisciplinary and comprehensive support for people affected by a diagnosis and treatment of cancer and has a particular interest in younger, midlife and older women’s health. Janine completed her PhD studies in the area of cancer and sexuality linked with the Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program (WWACP). Her particular focus is in managing menopause, sexuality, body image and depression issues for women.

Lately, Janine has been working with Auckland University and the University of Queensland to deliver a program as part of a research trial providing a Women’s Wellness Program for young women in New Zealand  (NZ) diagnosed with breast cancer. She and the Women’s Wellness team have also been recipients of a grant from Wesley Medical Research. They are using this to replicate the NZ feasibility trial with young women diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia.

In her spare time Janine likes spending time with family and friends. She enjoys walking the local bush tracks in the area. Her favourite relaxation is wandering along the beach in Northern New South Wales and kayaking the rivers down there.

Leonie Young

We hear stories all the time about people diagnosed with cancer but when it becomes personal we’re never prepared.  Somehow, we seem to think we’re different and these things happen to other people.  Well I learned otherwise.  Cancer is what opened up another world and changed so much about who I thought I was.

Breast cancer was totally unexpected especially as I was only 32 years old.  I was busy enjoying being a mother to my two small daughters.  I certainly wasn’t ready to die, although like most people diagnosed with cancer, this is what I thought.

Just hearing the words You have cancer can be a devastating experience people usually remember for the rest of their lives long after they have forgotten all the details of medical treatment and tests that followed those words.

Often people are so frightened by the word “cancer” they hear nothing else.  Interestingly, hearing the diagnosis may actually be more traumatic for some, regardless of their diagnosis. That’s what having a cancer diagnosis is like – people aren’t necessarily brave or especially wonderful in what they do, they just do what they have to do to survive because there’s really no other choice.

My world soon changed to the previously unknown one of tests, surgery, and chemotherapy.  Cancer treatments aim to save lives but in doing so, they often bring life-changing side-effects.   I eventually found ways to make meaning of what I had been through  and found myself being involved with many aspects of cancer consumer advocacy, support, training, and mentoring.  I became interested in research because I believe evidence based practice is the only way we will see change and I have  been able to work along-side researchers  providing input from my personal experience as they develop their research projects.

Likewise, in my work at the Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre (Choices) I help support people diagnosed with cancer from the perspective of someone who has “been there” and now with my work and through initiatives like the Women’s Wellness  Programs and the Younger Women’s Wellness After Cancer Program, this support is able to continue in a very rewarding way.

I’ve survived to see my daughters grow up, get married, and have children.  I have to confess I’m torn between wanting to stay young and knowing that growing older is a privilege many women still don’t have.  When I was that young woman back then I really wanted to be where I am today so I do try really hard to embrace the ever increasing grey hair and consequent extra trips to the hairdresser and wrinkles and all the other things that come with age.

Over time I learned to respect cancer, not fear it.  I discovered the power of the lived experience, the value of peer support, and about how I could make a difference.

I want breast cancer to go away so my daughters and grandchildren – and your children, grandchildren, sisters, mothers, friends can live without the fear of breast cancer.

A Drink a Day May Boost Risk for Certain Cancers

Another study showing an increased risk for cancer with drinking alcohol, even with just one or two drinks a day, has prompted renewed warnings on the health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

The new study, from an analysis of more than 150,000 healthcare professionals in the United States, found that overall, light to moderate drinking (alcohol intake of <15 g/day for women and <30 g/day for men) was associated with a small but non-significant increase in cancer risk in both women and men.

But this risk was more defined in specific populations. In men, the association was apparently driven by tobacco use. But for women, even one drink a day was associated with an increased risk for alcohol-related cancers, primarily breast cancer, and this was unrelated to smoking status.

The study was published online August 18, 2015 in the BMJ.

Some interesting nutrition news –  thank you Sarah, our dietician, for these links.