June 9, 2012

Treatment pie

I'm fairly open about my cancer and its treatment, but one aspect of my treatment that I have tended to keep to myself is the nutritional and psychological changes I have made as a result of getting cancer. I've hinted a few times at providing a list of 'What to do' but I am uncomfortable doing this.

The aim of this blog

I mainly use this blog to communicate the science of colorectal cancer and treatment (despite the fact that posts related to the heart side of things attract the highest number of views). This is the void in cancer communication that I am hoping to fill.

Why patients do the things we do

I'm into evidence-based treatments and the use of science as a tool for knowing things. Cancer hasn't changed this, but having stage three bowel cancer did force me to look at a wider range of therapies than I had considered in the past. And I deviated from my normal decision-making framework and adopted therapies that don't lend themselves to being evaluated clinically. I called these choices Leaps of Faith, in the sense that it was my faith in the treatment that mattered. This faith stemmed from my need to tackle many different parts of my life simultaneously. It was me vs my tumour, and the stakes were high.

No two pies are the same

Given the personal and individual nature of dealing with cancer, I have never dumped my therapeutic choices onto others. I have a concept of a cancer treatment pie - where each slice is a different therapy, way of thinking or tool. Each person needs to bake their own pie and for this reason I'm not going to use the blog to promote the lifestyle choices or therapies that made up my pie.

What I can say is that there is very good, and generalizable, evidence that the following increase your risk of colorectal cancer (above and beyond age that is):

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Processed meats or a diet high in meat
  • A diet high in animal fats

For more information see what Bowel Cancer Australia has to say about preventing colorectal cancer.

June 6, 2012

Had surgery? Be heard.

I offered to help recruit research participants for a new study being done into the information needs of people having surgery for colorectal cancer.

This project aims to explore patients’ experience of a subtotal or segmental colorectal cancer resection, and to identify their information needs. The project will study the longer term outcomes of the two different surgical options. If a need is identified, patient information leaflets will be developed from the findings for use in clinic.

This research project will focus on what patients have to say about the experience and outcomes of surgery in their own words. We will cover topics such as what you knew about colorectal cancer before you were diagnosed, what you knew about the surgery before you had it, your experience since having surgery, and what you would most liked to have known prior to the surgery, and how you would have liked to receive this information.

You can choose whether you would prefer to have an individual interview at a time and place that is convenient to you, or be part of a focus group discussion with 8-12 people who have undergone a similar surgery to you. 

If you want to take part please contact Emma Steel on  (03) 8344 0768 or emma.steel@unimelb.edu.au

Bowel cancer awareness week

It's here, my (new) favourite week of the year. Me and the people in my support group have been doing media across the country (news, breakfast TV, lifestyle magazines). We are sort of addicted to talking about bowel cancer, the cheap and easy screening kits available from most pharmacies, and pointing out to people that you don't need to be old, overweight and male to get this cancer.

I featured in a story by Tracy Vo on Channel 9 News:

Bowel Cancer Australia are doing cool stuff this week, including leading the 'Join the bowel movement' campaign and flash mobs in Brisbane. I went to their recent awareness week media launch in Sydney and was blown away with the quality and creativity of their public engagement strategies.