Supporting people with the rollercoaster of a cancer diagnosis

The experience of individuals and families as they move through their cancer journey has an impact on their overall health outcomes. Dr Anna Boltong previously led the Cancer Council Cancer Information and Support Service (CISS) in Victoria and is working with similar services internationally to ensure that cancer patients receive the best possible support alongside their cancer treatment.

Cancer can be an overwhelming experience. Having access to reliable information and support can have an enormous influence on a person’s wellbeing, and possibly even their survival.

But what is the best information and support to provide and how should it be delivered? These are the questions being addressed by Dr Anna Boltong, who recently led the Division of Strategy and Support at Cancer Council Victoria.

Dr Boltong is passionate about improving the experiences of people undergoing cancer care, and for the past few years has been conducting research into the information and support provided by Cancer Council with the aim of optimising this vital service.

Our research aims to explore the rationale, experience and impact of people affected by cancer using the Cancer Council Information Services. We sought to identify why patients use these services, how they experience them and how the service assisted them in terms of their cancer care.

Her research findings have placed a spotlight on just how important these services can be. What was particularly highlighted was how having access to the Cancer Information and Support Service empowered individuals and their families to become more engaged with their cancer treatment. Service users reported feeling more confident about communicating with their healthcare teams and more able to make informed treatment decisions.

A key finding of our research was that use of the Cancer Council Cancer Information and Support Service helped people become more confident about engaging with their healthcare team and more able to manage their own health.

The research demonstrated the value of providing services remotely such as via telephone and web based communication channels. It also enabled the tangible benefits of the service to be defined and communicated with healthcare professionals, encouraging them to incorporate supportive care into their treatment recommendations.

Most importantly, the research conducted by Dr Boltong and her international colleagues has highlighted that use of these community based information services empowers people affected by cancer to better manage their own health and wellbeing, ultimately improving their health outcomes and quality of life.

Cancer Council has the infrastructure, the connections and networks to ensure that our research money goes to the very best quality research with the greatest potential for improving cancer outcomes.

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