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Friday 22 September 2017

Almost a quarter of cancer patients seek counselling

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

ALMOST one-in-four cancer patients seeks counselling having suffered anxiety, fear and stress due to the trauma of their illness.

And another 17pc are in need of support to adjust to life after cancer and want to learn new coping skills, according to a new report.

The report on the National Counselling Grants Programme – which was carried out by the Irish Cancer Society – found more than four-in-10 clients went for help less than a year after being diagnosed with the disease.

Olwyn Ryan, patient support services manager at the Irish Cancer Society, said: "Cancer patients and their families may experience anxiety, anger, sadness and depression.

"These emotions can occur at any time, even months or years after a cancer diagnosis, and it's important to recognise the need for this type of assistance," she added.

The results showed:

* Women are more likely to attend professional counselling than men. Women made up 77pc of clients last year.

* More than half of those who used the service were aged between 41 and 60.

* Some 26pc of clients attending were relatives of the patients, normally an adult child.

* A significant 22pc of the clients who used the counselling service were also bereaved due to cancer.

* Breast cancer accounted for 36pc of Donegal clients, which is 7pc higher than the national average.

* In Kerry, one-in-three clients attended less than one year after diagnosis – lower than the national average.

* One-in-three referred themselves to the counselling service.

The report pointed out that, based on international research on best practice in counselling and cancer, each client is offered up to eight sessions.

However, in many cases a client only needs one or two sessions to help them understand that their emotional reaction to cancer diagnosis is normal, and to learn coping techniques.

More than three-quarters of the clients took up between one and six sessions and only a small number needed eight sessions.

Extra sessions were granted in cases where there was extreme distress or a setback in medical condition, the report pointed out.

DIFFICULT

"Counsellors provide emotional support by allowing clients to express their feelings and fears in confidence," said Ms Ryan.

"They can help clients see things differently and find their way through a difficult period."

The society gave grants of €219,840 to the centres last year.

Cancer patients and their relatives can find their nearest affiliate support centre providing this service by logging on to www.cancer.ie/how-we-can-help/support or call the Irish Cancer Society freefone helpline on 1800 200 700.

Irish Independent

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