People with cancer are constantly living under a cloud of uncertainty. After diagnosis, patients put their life on hold to receive treatment in the hopes of curing their cancer. Consumed with thoughts of ‘Will this treatment work? Is this the right option for me? Am I going to survive this?’; they often don’t know what lies ahead and are solely focused on their treatment and beating the cancer.
While survival rates are improving, this presents a whole new set of challenges for medical oncologists and surgeons alike. Many patients find it hard to readjust and continue on with their life as the fear of recurrence looms. While worrying is completely normal, it can cause harmful stress on patients and their doctors who feel poorly equipped to manage this fear.
Medical oncologist A/Prof Jane Beith is conducting a pilot study with breast cancer patients to teach doctors how to initiate conversations about navigating survivorship. It involves four simple interventions a physician can make during follow up appointments: normalisation of worry, exploring prognosis, providing strategies to cope and referral to a psychologist. So far it has produced extremely positive results.
Jane recently chatted to Deborah Knight on 2GB about the study, how to normalise the fear of recurrence and why is it so common for patients to fear recurrence while being unable to express these fears to their doctors. Listen below: