The vital role of a cancer support network

The moment a person is diagnosed with cancer can elicit a variety of emotions. Fear of what’s to come is a common reaction to such a diagnosis, and some people may feel alone upon learning they have cancer. But no cancer patient should face their diagnosis and treatment alone. In fact, a strong support network can be vital to patients’ recoveries.

According to Weill Cornell Medicine, recent changes in the healthcare industry have shifted the burden of care from the hospital to the home. That underscores the importance of a strong support network. Many of the challenges cancer patients face in the months after diagnosis will be new, and patients can expect a range of emotions.

According to Breast Cancer Now, a charitable organization that funds one-third of breast cancer research in the United Kingdom, women may experience emotions such as shock, anger, disbelief, anxiety, and sadness after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Having loved ones there to help them make sense of those emotions and stay positive as they navigate their way through the treatment process is essential.

In addition to providing emotional support, loved ones of breast cancer patients may need to take on additional roles as they help their friends or family members face the challenges that lay ahead. Because of the industry changes noted by Weill Cornell Medicine, cancer caregivers and support networks may need to prepare themselves to take on the following roles, each of which is vital to cancer patients' survival.

  • Monitor the disease: Support networks may need to keep track of how their loved ones' disease is progressing and if there are any complications from treatment.
  • Manage symptoms: notes that treatment causes severe side effects in many women. Such side effects may include nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, pain, arm swelling, shortness of breath, and skin irritation.

Thankfully, most of these side effects can be treated. In addition, notes that most side effects ease up after treatment is completed. In the meantime, support networks may need to help patients manage those symptoms, performing a host of tasks to make their loved ones' lives easier. For example, patients experiencing shortness of breath may be incapable of performing chores around the house. In such instances, members of a support network can tackle those chores until their loved one bounces back.

  • Administer medication: Breast cancer patients may be too overwhelmed to handle their own medications, so support networks can take over this important responsibility for them.
  • Assist with personal care: Some patients may experience fatigue after treatment. In such instances, support networks can help patients maintain their personal hygiene.

Support networks can be vital to helping cancer patients overcome their disease and navigate their way through successful treatment regimens.

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