Wellness Is Essential To Comprehensive Cancer Care

Friday, June 26th marks the second annual National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day. Recognized by individuals and organizations, like Hospice Quinte, across Canada, the mission of National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day is to increase awareness of the importance of cancer wellness, and to empower those living with cancer – including those who have been diagnosed, along with their families and caregivers – to seek out and connect with cancer wellness organizations in their community.

“When statistics show us that 1 in 2 Canadians are expected to develop cancer in their lifetime, it’s incredibly important for us all to learn about the importance of cancer wellness and what it really means to live well with cancer,” says Hospice Quinte Executive Director, Jennifer-May Anderson. “Last year, Hospice Quinte provided hospice palliative care through our Visiting Hospice program to 208 clients in the Quinte Region – 149 of which had a terminal cancer diagnosis.”

Cancer wellness is a whole-person approach to wellness with a focus on an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It improves some of the challenges that come along with a cancer diagnosis – like fatigue, quality of life, diet, and mental health. It also empowers individuals living with cancer to make concrete behavioural, spiritual, and physical changes in their lives to support them living well with and through cancer.

Research shows that wellness is an essential component of comprehensive cancer care. By addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs throughout the cancer experience, wellness programs improve quality of life and in some cases, can help prevent recurrence. Many facilities are now working towards treating the person as a whole, and not just the cancer. A range of professionals including osteopaths, dietitians, kinesiologists, psychologists, and yoga instructors are examples of the types of care providers who might fall together under an individual’s umbrella of cancer wellness.

Palliative care is a critical component of the cancer continuum of care and healthcare overall. Palliative care should be provided earlier in the course of advanced cancer, introduced progressively and with other therapies, using a multidisciplinary team approach.

The impact of palliative care has been studied extensively. Research shows that it:

  • improves quality of life and satisfaction with care for people with cancer and their family caregivers
  • means less use of hospital emergency departments at the end of life
  • increases the likelihood that people with cancer will die in a setting of their choice

Palliative care has been shown to be particularly effective when delivered before the last stages of life. However, the quality and availability of palliative care differs between and within provinces and territories. Accessibility and availability of care is not consistent even in large cities and can be even scarcer in rural and remote areas. Even when palliative care services are available, not all Canadians know about these services or how to access them.

On June 26th, you can help Hospice Quinte and the many others participating, to spread the message about the importance of cancer wellness across our communities. Together, we can let more people living with cancer know that support is available for them and their loved ones.

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“The care of the dying demands all that we can do to enable patients to live until they die.”

–Dame Cicely Saunders