For many of us, each new year brings with it our hopes and dreams for a better world. Working with cancer survivors, many of us wish for more effective treatments, less suffering, and ultimately that the need for our work will cease to exist. That is unlikely to happen in any of our lifetimes, if ever, and certainly not in 2017. Perhaps our dreams and hopes should focus on what each and every one of us can do to spread the word about what everyone can do to prevent cancer.
I have written a new book, due out in the first quarter of 2017, about obesity and cancer (A Health Care Provider’s Guide To Cancer And Obesity , Oncology Nursing Society). While the primary focus of the book is to encourage oncology care providers to talk about this to our patients, I also included the available evidence on the role that overweight and obesity plays in the development of many cancers as well as in the recurrence of certain cancers. Managing weight is not easy, and many oncology care providers struggle with this challenge. This is seen by some as a barrier to discussing weight with patients, even though it can be a powerful bridge to the obese patient. Being overweight or obese as a health care provider can reassure patients that we understand the challenges of making good food choices and being physically active. Some oncology care providers are more concerned about patients losing weight and developing cachexia even though the evidence is clear on which of these, obesity or cachexia, is often a greater concern to quality of life and survivorship.
Being at a healthy weight is not only important for the prevention of many cancers, but it also prevents other diseases that are even more lethal than some cancers. Physical exercise, an important component of managing weight, is looking like the ‘magic pill or prescription’ to which many of our patients should be adherent, but often aren’t. We have a duty to talk about this with our patients and their families and yet most of us are not and often for very personal reasons.
My hope for cancer care in 2017 is that each and every oncology care provider will include a discussion about this and other primary prevention interventions with our patients every time we interact with them. A diagnosis of cancer or a change in health status, both positive and negative, can be a teachable moment for our patients and their loved ones. We need to be aware of when that moment happens and provide them with evidence-based recommendations that can literally alter prognosis and improve quality of life, and yes, even prevent a new cancer for a family member. That’s value-added care.
Dr Anne Katz is a clinical nurse specialist and AASECT-certified sexuality counsellor at CancerCare Manitoba. She has written 2 books on the topic of cancer survivorship (After You Ring the Bell: Ten Challenges for the Cancer Survivor [Hygeia Media] and Surviving after Cancer: Living the New Normal [Rowman & Littlefield]) and 3 on cancer and sexuality.
Dr. Katz’ professional life is focused on providing information, education and counselling to people with cancer and their partners about sexual changes that can occur during and after treatment. But there is another important aspect to this work; Dr. Katz wants every cancer patient to be able to have a discussion about sexuality with their health care providers. And so she travels across North America (as well as Europe and the Caribbean!) teaching health care providers to ask their patients about this important part of quality of life.
If you’d like to know more about Dr. Katz and the work she does, or if you’d like her to come to your city or town, health care facility or doctor’s office, you can contact her by email.
“I am always eager to spread the word and break the silence.”