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Cancer Support: Building a Strong Network of Care and Compassion

World Cancer Day 2024 theme is "Close the Care Gap" and calls for the creation of innovative strategies to address inequities and the allocation of resources towards a just and cancer-free world.


World Cancer Day on February 4th is a global initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to unite people in the fight against cancer by raising awareness, promoting education, and inspiring action. Imagine a world where millions of preventable cancer deaths are avoided, and access to life-saving cancer treatment and care is equitable for all, regardless of their background or location.


King Charles raising awareness

King Charles of England has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and he has chosen to go public about the news because he had been a patron of several cancer-related charities when he was Prince of Wales. It has been the case when he went for his prostrate treatment, and being honest about it with the aim to encourage more men to get checks. The NHS website reported a surge in issues about prostrate conditions since then.

"In this capacity, His Majesty has often spoken publicly in support of cancer patients, their loved ones and the wonderful health professionals who help care for them." (Source: bbc.com)

Close the Care Gap

Many individuals still face obstacles when seeking cancer care. Factors such as income, education, geographical location, and discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, and lifestyle can hinder access to quality care. That is why this year's World Cancer Day theme is "Close the Care Gap". There is a demand for commitment from world leaders to prioritise cancer care and ensure that everyone has access to quality health services.


It is important we create a strong network of care and support right where we are in our communities. We all have a role to play and can make a difference in a cancer patient's treatment journey.


Photo: National Cancer Institute, Unsplash | Brilliant Online


Australian Cancer Plan

The Australian Government has unveiled the Australian Cancer Plan, a significant initiative aimed at enhancing various aspects of cancer care nationwide. The plan encompasses prevention, screening, treatment, and management for all cancer types, with a focus on inclusivity and accessibility. Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO of Cancer Australia, introduced the plan at the 50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) in Melbourne.

The Plan will support the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to enable Aboriginal and Torres Islander people and governments to work together to overcome the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

The plan addresses the entire spectrum of the cancer journey, spanning from prevention and early detection to treatment, recovery, and end-of-life care.



How to offer support

Here are some Do's and Don'ts that may guide you if you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Emotional support from family and friends makes a big difference to the quality of life of cancer patients.


It's okay to...

  • Be honest and say you feel awkward. Acknowledging the reality of what's happening can be more relieving than pretending.

  • Ask if they want a hug.

  • Show them you are thinking of them with a call, a card, a text, a note etc.

  • Offer to listen if they wish to talk, and make the effort to be available for them.

  • Be consistent and supportive through the process from diagnosis through to treatment and after.

  • Respect their choices if they need privacy.


Try not to...

  • Say you know how they feel. We cannot ever assume we can understand.

  • Compare their situation to someone you know. Each person's experience with their illness is highly individual.

  • Enforce toxic positivity and pressure them to be strong. It makes them feel like they have to behave a certain way and their genuine feelings will not be validated.

  • Take what they say or do personally. They may not want you to be there or they may reject a hug, and it's okay.


How to listen to someone with cancer


Practical ways to support

Patients do appreciate when friends or family can offer to do very specific things and take the initiative to ask.


  • You can offer to drive them to the hospital for their medical appointments.

  • If you wish to visit, ask first. They may not be feeling up to it and it's not because of you.

  • Bringing a meal over for them or preparing meals they can freeze for the week can help relieve a burden.

  • Help with errands such as gardening, grocery shopping, walking the dog etc.

  • Ask if they would like any help with household chores.

  • Help with dropping off the children at school or picking them up after.


It is okay to have an honest conversation with cancer patients to know what they most need help with. If you are able to offer the help, make sure you commit to it and are prepared for any changes. Being diagnosed with cancer is a challenging situation for everyone, so patience, kindness and understanding are key. It is also important that carers and those offering support look after their own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Be realistic about what you can and cannot help with or do.


It may be a long journey to equity in providing medical care but we can all start where we are. Hearing the stories of cancer patients can help give you information about their condition and what they may be experiencing. Read personal stories here.


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