Sarah Chapman introduces Contemplating Cancer, Cochrane UK’s special series of blogs and other resources sharing cancer evidence and experience.
Today we’re launching Contemplating Cancer, a special series which will run throughout November and will include blogs and and a tweetchat on cancer-related topics. We hope it will be both informative and thought-provoking for people with personal or professional experience of cancer, from diagnosis onwards.
Experience and evidence
Next week, we will have two blogs by doctors who also have personal experience of cancer, as patients. Both reflect on a Cochrane Review on communication skills training for talking to people about cancer – including breaking the news about their diagnosis – in the light of their own experiences from both sides of the table. In the first of these blogs Liz O’Riordan, a breast surgeon with recurrent breast cancer, considers the question “Does communication skills training improve cancer care?” and reflects on how having cancer changed her perspectives.
Charlotte Squires, a specialist trainee in Geriatric Medicine, was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2019, aged thirty. In her blog Communication with cancer patients: does practice make perfect? she also draws on her own personal and professional experiences in discussing how this Cochrane Review is helpful in highlighting some strengths and weaknesses of communication skills training and the evidence for it, including the uncertainties about its long-term benefits.
Sally Crowe, whose work focuses on patient and public involvement in health services and research, was treated for a rare cancer two years ago. In her blog Cancer and Post-Traumatic Stress she writes about her experience of this common but little talked about consequence of cancer and shares some valuable insights into what she has found can help, or hinder, recovery.
In their blog Prostate cancer: to treat or not to treat?, doctors Francisco Lopez, Freddie Hamdy and Alastair Lamb explain why prostate cancer is different from most others, why it might not need treating, and what people may want to consider when making decisions about treatment. They also look at the evidence from a Cochrane Review comparing surgery with monitoring.
Finally, in their blog Informal caregivers: the invisible people caring for cancer survivors, psychologists and cancer researchers Beverley Lim Høeg and Pernille Envold Bidstrup look at the challenges faced by those caring for a loved-one with cancer and explore why informal caregivers deserve more focus in cancer treatment and research.
Illustrating cancer topics
At Cochrane UK, we have given a lot of thought to the impact and importance of images used when sharing health evidence and experience and have recently produced some guidance on selecting images. We wanted to use images for this series that might themselves offer something to readers, perhaps stimulating reflection and conversation. It also seemed to us to be important to involve the bloggers who have trusted us with their stories in the way their blogs are illustrated. Sally, Liz and Charlotte have chosen images and shared what they mean for them, in each of their blogs.
Liz O’Riordan chose the image shown at the top of this blog, Waiting #1 by Andy Farr (@andyfarrart). She explains: “If you’ve never received bad news yourself, as a doctor it’s hard to imagine the impact your words have on the patients who hear them. The moment I knew I had cancer, it was as if a lightbulb had gone off. My life was on hold. How much of it did I have left? I had to sit and watch the rest of the world carry on as normal, hoping one day I would be able to join them again.”
Some of the images we use may resonate with you and in different ways. We’d be really interested to hear your responses to them, or to see other images that are meaningful for you. We have used only those images we have permission to use, but you may be interested to see the collections Liz pointed us to, photographs by Emma Barnard and art created by people out of their experience of breast cancer at the Breast Cancer Art Project, such as the examples below.
A tweetchat on communicating about cancer
@CochraneUK will be hosting a tweetchat on the theme of ‘communicating about cancer’, from 20.00 to 21.00 GMT on Thursday 12th November. We really hope this will engage a wide range of people with experience of cancer: patients and cancer-survivors; informal carers, friends and relatives of people with cancer; and researchers, health professionals and others working for and with people with cancer. We’ll aim to share some insights from the tweetchat in a blog, later in the month.
The questions we will explore during the tweetchat are:
People who have/had cancer, family and friends
- what do you want healthcare professionals to know about communicating about cancer?
- what has made/makes a difference to you in conversations with healthcare professionals about cancer?
- what do you struggle with when communicating with patients about cancer?
- what training do you get for communicating about cancer, both formal and informal, and how useful is it?
- in communicating about cancer, what have you learned that has most influenced or changed your practice?
- what are your experiences of talking about mental health issues in conversations about cancer?
We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences during the tweetchat in the comments below the blogs, or on Facebook or Twitter with @CochraneUK throughout the month.
*Liv James’ Facebook page and group:
**Kim Gibbs’ website: Kim Gibbs Fine Art.
Please note, we cannot give medical advice and we will not publish comments that link to commercial sites or appear to endorse commercial products. We welcome diverse views and encourage discussion. However, we ask that comments are respectful and reserve the right to not publish comments we consider offensive.
Sarah Chapman has nothing to disclose.
Read the rest of the blogs in the “Contemplating Cancer” series:
- Informal caregivers: the invisible people caring for cancer survivors by Beverley Lim Høeg and Pernille Envold Bidstrup
- Prostate cancer: “To treat, or not to treat?” by Francisco Lopez, Freddie Hamdy and Alastair Lamb
- Communicating about cancer: experiences and reflections by Sarah Chapman
- Cancer and Post-Traumatic Stress by Sally Crowe
- Communication with cancer patients: does practice make perfect? by Charlotte Squires
- Does communication skills training improve cancer care? by Liz O’Riordan