Emotional impact of cancer affects survivors years after diagnosis

2 March 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth


A report on the Irish Cancer Society’s Counselling Service shows that many families impacted by a cancer diagnosis require emotional support in the months and years after a cancer diagnosis. While 48 per cent of those accessing the service did so within the same year of learning they had cancer, 20 per cent of clients attended for counselling within two years of diagnosis. A further 20 per cent of clients used the service between 3-10 years after a cancer diagnosis.

The counselling service is available locally in Cork in Cork ARC Cancer Support House, which is affiliated with the Irish Cancer Society. Ahead of Daffodil Day 2016 which takes place on Friday 11th of March 2016, the Society is highlighting the emotional impact of a diagnosis as one of the long term survivorship needs of cancer survivors.

“Counselling provides emotional and practical support to cancer survivors and their families” said Dorothy Thomas, Community Support Network Coordinator at the Irish Cancer Society. “Coping with cancer can be difficult and families may experience many emotions such as anxiety, fear and sadness. It can be valuable to speak to a counsellor who can provide support in adapting to life after cancer and in finding a new ‘normal’.

“The report shows that cancer patients who attended for counselling make up 58 per cent of clients, 14 per cent were children, siblings or friends and 12 per cent were a partner or spouse, with a further 16 per cent requiring support following the death of a loved one. This further demonstrates the true impact of a cancer diagnosis on all of the family.”

A network of community based cancer support services, affiliated to the Society, play a vital role in providing psychosocial care for cancer patients and their families in their own communities .The Irish Cancer Society granted €299,520 to support centres across the country in 2014 to provide a counselling service, free of charge to cancer patients and their families. Over 1,000 cancer patients, survivors and their families, accessed the service availing of 6,086 individual counselling sessions.

This counselling service fills a support gap for cancer patients who often report that while they are undergoing cancer treatment, the focus is on the treatment plan with support from the hospital team and other patients. It is only after the treatment is complete that they realise how much cancer has changed their lives. The emotional effects of cancer may not be felt until weeks, months or years after the initial diagnosis.

People of all ages affected by cancer require emotional support. The majority of those attending the service were between the ages of 45-64 (52%) while 25% of clients were between the ages of 18 and 44 with this age group experiencing significant issues such as relationships, fertility and careers, all impacted on a cancer journey. Women were much more likely to attend for counselling with 76 per cent of clients female and 24 per cent male, in line with the uptake of counselling generally. Clients under 18 made up 5 per cent of clients, almost all of these children were struggling with the diagnosis of a sibling or a significant adult in their life.

As a charity, the Society relies on the generosity of the public to continue providing free services which support cancer patients at every stage of their cancer journey. Daffodil Day, the Society’s flagship fundraising day which is kindly supported by Dell, takes place on Friday, 11th of March 2016. Visit www.cancer.ie/daffodilday to organise an event or to donate.

Anyone who is concerned about cancer or is interested in accessing the counselling service, can contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie/support/counselling.

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