Much research has been conducted on the physical impact that cancer has on patients, but what about the emotional impact that it has on the patient and their partners?
This led researchers at the Ingham Institute Professor Afaf Girgis and Dr Janelle Levesque to develop Coping-Together, an Australian-first study targeted at couples adjusting to a recent diagnosis of cancer to give them vital coping strategies to help manage the disease.
Coping-Together is a multi-media coping skills intervention program born out of the Ingham Institute at Liverpool Hospital which is aimed at patients with a recent diagnosis of cancer (specifically prostate, breast, colorectal/bowel and melanoma, within four months of diagnosis) and their partners.
The aim of the program is to give them a complete suite of practical resources to manage the significant physical and psychosocial effects of the disease including a series of information booklets, a DVD, and a website.
The materials provide a step-by-step guide to address a range of issues confronting patients and their partners including tips on how to improve communication and get the best out of healthcare professionals and managing psychological issues like anxiety and depression.
According to the Project Manager, Ingham Institute researcher Dr Janelle Levesque, the study goes a step beyond the current resources available to include patients’ partners in the equation to enable better management of the disease.
“People hear about the emotional rollercoaster that patients experience; however, their partners are often left out of the equation. In fact, research studies have shown that partners can sometimes have a greater emotional reaction to the effects of the disease than the patients themselves,” said Dr Levesque.
“This is why Coping-Together targets both patients and their partners. The ultimate aim of the study is to get feedback from both on the materials and track if and how they are effective in improving the emotional wellbeing of patients and their partners.”
“The materials are in a self-directed format which couples can use in their homes and at their own pace, making it suitable for everyone, including people in rural and remote communities,” she said.
The Coping-Together resources were pilot tested in 2012 and 2013 on couples dealing with prostate cancer, revealing how successful the program is in improving communication, managing healthcare professionals, connecting with support services, while also boosting coping behaviours.
Dr Levesque said that the most resounding finding from the pilot study was that the Coping-Together materials gave participants a sense of hope.
The Coping-Together trial is currently recruiting and looking for couples to take part. If you or your partner are within four months of diagnosis of prostate, breast, colorectal/bowel cancer or melanoma, have not previously been diagnosed with cancer, and are receiving or planning to receive treatment for cancer, please contact Dr Janelle Levesque at the Ingham Institute on 1800 104 597 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Dr Janelle Levesque: