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Cancer survivors need better support in B.C., expert says

07/21/2015 11:18 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT
There are approximately 185,000 cancer survivors in British Columbia, and the provincial health care system needs to do a better job of supporting them and their families, say experts.

The number of survivors is only expected to grow, thanks in part to a rising population and advancements in research, early detection and treatment, said Stuart Peacock, deputy head of cancer control research at the B.C. Cancer Agency.

In order to better address that populations' needs, Simon Fraser University has created a new position, the Leslie Diamond Chair in Cancer Survivorship, and has named Peacock as its inaugural chair.   

Unique needs of cancer survivors

After undergoing chemotherapy, many cancer survivors face new health challenges including heart disease, lung problems, endocrine complications and a range of issues with infertility.

"There can be an enormous amount of psychosocial issues going on here as well," Peacock said, especially surrounding body image, fear of the cancer returning, and altered family relationships.

Many survivors eventually lose touch with the cancer system and rely on their family doctor, who may not necessarily have the same level of expertise in dealing with cancer-related issues. 

Worse yet, others may not even have access to a family physician, despite how critically important that is for people who have a chronic condition, Peacock said.

A multi-disciplinary approach

"I'm a big believer in multi-disciplinary approaches," said Peacock.

While many family doctors are familiar with the more common forms of cancer (such as breast or prostate), few physicians have experience guiding the complex-needs patients who have been affected by rarer types of childhood cancers.  

That's why Peacocks' research will focus on building better cooperation and collaboration between general practitioners and oncologists.  

Peacock also hopes to make it easier for cancer survivors to find a family doctor if they don't already have one.

To hear the full interview with Stuart Peacock, listen to the audio labelled: Supporting the experience and health of cancer survivors.

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