On Friday 5 October we collaborated with the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine on a conference exploring new ways forward in cancer care.
Experts in a range of disciplines from psychology to herbalism spoke about the importance of combining conventional, lifestyle and holistic approaches to health and cancer care. The day culminated with an inspiring talk from Caroline Pushman and Sophie Sabbage providing an essential patient’s perspective on the cancer experience.
Create an ‘and’ where there is currently an ‘or’
Despite the wealth of evidence on the benefits of complementary therapies to people living with cancer there is still scepticism about patients using therapies alongside their standard treatment. 70% of people with a cancer diagnosis have used some form of complementary therapy, yet only between 40% and 70% inform their oncology teams about this. At Penny Brohn UK we know there is more to health than simply what is going on in our bodies and that to function as well as we can we need to pay more attention to our mental, emotional and spiritual health.
This was the resounding theme throughout the conference. It’s not about replacing conventional treatment with complementary therapies it’s about allowing the two to work together so that someone with cancer can achieve the optimum conditions to thrive.
The psychological effects of a cancer diagnosis and the support available
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Olivia Donnelly spoke about the trauma a cancer diagnosis can cause. 67% of people with cancer experience anxiety and 42% experience depression, yet 75% of people don’t receive any support for their psychological and emotional wellbeing. Even 10 years after treatment 54% of cancer survivors still suffer from at least one psychological issue1.
This was further confirmed by Sophie and Caroline who both spoke about the lack of emotional and psychological support available to them post-diagnosis. Sophie Sabbage was given four months to live in October 2014 and despite the shock that no doubt accompanied a prognosis of this degree there was no offer of emotional support or counselling. Sophie and Caroline both faced the shared experience of cancer patients which is the lack of control once your oncology team takes over. Caroline came to Penny Brohn UK and the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine for support.
Caroline: I asked if there is anything I can do for myself, I turned to Google and came across Penny Brohn UK. Cancer was explained to me in a way that I could understand alongside people in the same position as me. And it was clear there were things I could do for myself. The help I received from Penny Brohn UK and the Portland Centre helped to build my confidence because I was able to do things for myself.”
Throughout the conference we heard from speakers about the supportive therapies on offer at Penny Brohn UK and the Portland Centre for Integrated Medicine and how these have made significant changes to people’s lives and cancer experiences. From helping someone self-manage their care to building resilience there is a clear need for integrating complementary and conventional therapies. At the very least using a supportive therapy as part of treatment for cancer can help someone feel better and that can only be beneficial to their quality of life and recovery.