Supportive Care

Supportive care is the responsibility of many disciplines and agencies. Support from family, friends, support groups, volunteers, health professionals, volunteer based cancer support programs and other community-based organisations all make an important contribution. A supportive care program includes the services of professionals such as social workers, psychologists, family physicians, palliative care specialists, nutritionists, specialty nurses, physiotherapists, occupational or speech therapists, as well as community services and volunteers such as CanCare patient navigators, who offer an important role in one-to-one support and practical aid.

Increases in the incidence of cancer and improved survival rates means more people now survive cancer. It’s great news.

For those effected by cancer, there are many challenges:

  • learning how to manage some of the longer term side effects of treatment,
  • rebuilding your life when treatment is finished;
  • fear of recurrence
  • finding practical & emotional support

Some cancer survivors may need

  • Supportive care
  • Improved health literacy
  • Healthy lifestyle advice: nutrition, diet, exercise

In 2015 Mary-Ann Burg identified a number of ‘themes’ of unmet needs. In brief:

  • Physical Needs. Those affecting the body, like pain, diet, exercise, rest.
  • Financial. Money, insurance, the affordability of needed services and products.
  • Education/information. Unanswered questions regarding what to expect as a cancer survivor.
  • Systems. Needs from the health care system, such as early detection, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and continuity of care.
  • Resources. Needs related to availability of supplies, equipment, therapies, medications, or transport.
  • Emotional and mental health needs. Psychological issues such as fear (recurrence, mortality), depression, anxiety, negative feelings.
  • Social support. Access to support groups, helping others, participation in social situations
  • Communications. Talking and explaining cancer and the cancer experience with others – doctors, family, friends, employers.
  • Providers. Needs related to trust in health care providers, like decision-making, follow-through and support.
  • Cure. Hopes for a cure for cancer and of effective treatments for self and others.
  • Body image. Needs related to negative perception of body, such as feeling unattractive.
  • Survivor identity. Either identifying or not identifying as a cancer survivor because of dislike of the term “survivor”.
  • Employment. Need for a source of income that is appropriate given the cancer experience.
  • Existential. Attaining peace in life and making sense or gaining some meaning of the cancer experience.


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