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People with cancer have poorer health if they lack social support, research finds

Care for patients with bowel cancer should involve mental as well as physical healthcare, says Macmillan Cancer Support.
Depressed

Care for patients with bowel cancer should involve mental as well as physical healthcare, says Macmillan Cancer Support.

People with bowel cancer who lack a key type of social support are more than twice as likely than others to experience poorer overall health and quality of life, according to new research.

The study by University of Southampton shows that people who do not experience positive social interactions are more likely to face problems with, for example, mobility, completing simple tasks such as washing or dressing or severe pain.

They are also almost six times more likely to have clinical levels of depression and more than four times more likely to have clinical levels of anxiety.

The Colorectal Wellbeing (CREW) study, supported by Macmillan Cancer Support and published in the journal Psycho-Oncology, followed 1,000

Care for patients with bowel cancer should involve mental as well as physical healthcare, says Macmillan Cancer Support.

Depressed
Without social support cancer patients often experience depression. Picture: iStock

People with bowel cancer who lack a key type of social support are more than twice as likely than others to experience poorer overall health and quality of life, according to new research.

The study by University of Southampton shows that people who do not experience positive social interactions are more likely to face problems with, for example, mobility, completing simple tasks such as washing or dressing or severe pain.

They are also almost six times more likely to have clinical levels of depression and more than four times more likely to have clinical levels of anxiety.

The Colorectal Wellbeing (CREW) study, supported by Macmillan Cancer Support and published in the journal Psycho-Oncology, followed 1,000 people with bowel cancer for five years after surgery.

The researchers found the proportion of people with little or no positive social interaction almost doubled, from 7% at diagnosis to 12% two years later.

Rigorous assessment

Both organisations are calling for more rigorous assessments of people’s emotional and social support needs at the point of diagnosis and after treatment.

They say such assessments will allow nurses and other staff to identify those who may be more susceptible to depression or anxiety, and ensure they get the support they need.

Macmillan Cancer Support treatment and recovery specialist advisor Dany Bell said: ‘Having a friend to go for a coffee with or who can join them for a country walk could help people cope with a range of problems, from anxiety and depression to pain and even mobility problems.

‘Healthcare professionals often focus on helping patients with their physical health, but mental health and well-being also need attention.

‘It’s important for healthcare teams to talk to patients about the issues they face because with the right support many of their problems can be managed and overcome.’


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