Helping childhood cancer survivors have a long and healthy life

Professor Claire Wakefield is a research psychologist with a passion for helping families impacted by cancer. Her innovative Cancer Council funded program aims to address some of the big challenges associated with life after a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer Council funded researcher Professor Claire Wakefield is a research psychologist with a particular passion for helping families to return to what life was before the upheaval of cancer.

It’s important to realise that everyone in a family is affected by a cancer diagnosis and we aim to develop new programs to help both parents and young people.

Based at the Kids Cancer Centre in Sydney Children’s Hospital, Professor Wakefield and her team are working to address the health challenges associated with life after cancer, as well as breaking down some of the barriers that limit access to ongoing care.

With the ongoing support of Cancer Council, Professor Wakefield is developing a number of innovative programs designed to tackle some of the mental, physical and social issues that can arise when a child moves home following long term cancer treatment.

Our research will help young people to reach their full potential and not have their future affected by physical or mental impacts of their cancer. We aim for them to return to the potential they had before their cancer. We also want to save the life of the family, not just the child.

Ranging from professionally guided peer group discussion to online interventions designed to change important health behaviours, these six programs have been designed to help both young people and their parents cope. They tackle key issues including the physical impacts of cancer treatment, changing relationships, financial stress and grief.

Recognising that many families will struggle with travel and financial costs, the programs are delivered via telephone and the internet which makes them accessible to anyone across the country. Importantly, these programs also facilitate the long term follow up care that is essential to maintaining the health of childhood cancer survivors.

Whilst currently still in the research stage, Professor Wakefield and her team aim to deliver these programs to young people and families across the country, and possibly even across the world.

Should cancer occur, we want children and families to return to a cancer free world as soon as possible. We do not want a cancer diagnosis to change the course of a young person’s wellbeing, or stop them from reaching their full potential.

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