By Christina Kozakiewicz, Ingram School of Nursing
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. Over the course of this 30-day period, over 1,700 Canadian men will be diagnosed with the disease, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, which also notes that prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting Canadian men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), and the third leading cause of their cancer-related deaths.
For many newly diagnosed cancer patients, a partner, parent, adult child or friend will become their caregiver—providing physical, emotional and logistical support, such as managing visits to the doctor, giving medicines, reporting or managing side effects, providing physical care including feeding, dressing and bathing, as well as assisting with legal and financial issues.
In a health care climate of limited capacities and overstretched resources, patients’ needs tend to usurp those of their caregivers, despite the critical role caregivers’ play in helping to maintain patients’ health and wellbeing throughout their illness. According to research undertaken by Sylvie Lambert—Assistant Professor at McGill’s Ingram School of Nursing, Research Associate, St. Mary’s Research Centre and Canada Research Chair Tier 2—caregivers for men with prostate cancer often experience significant anxiety and needs of their own, but have access to fewer services, leaving them at high risk for both physical and emotional problems.
Lambert and Dr. Lindsay Duncan—Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology & Physical Education, McGill University—are leading a study targeting the health and wellbeing of caregivers for prostate cancer patients, with the goal of improving their quality of life using e-health technology. The focus of her study entitled—“Reducing anxiety and enhancing quality of life among caregivers of prostate cancer survivors: Development and evaluation of a dyadic, tailored, web-based, psychosocial and physical activity self-management programme”—is the development of a web-based tool which will combine coping-skills training and an in-home exercise program to enhance the health and functioning for both patients and caregivers.
The program will involve both patients and caregivers who will have access to an online platform (called TEMPO). TEMPO will initially be developed through incorporating patients’, caregivers’ and other key stakeholders’ feedback, culminating in a pilot trial to assess several factors including quality of life, anxiety, self-management skills, physical activity and depression. “TEMPO is the first of its kind, because it provides an online component for caregivers,” says Lambert. “This study will provide a strong foundation on which to plan a larger trial.”
Lambert came to this field of research from a general interest in health education, but also, from information gleaned from her longitudinal post-doctoral study on caregivers’ wellbeing. “I realized how much support caregivers needed in order to carry out their role, and how much the illness of their loved one affected them,” says Lambert. “They often did not access services and suffered in silence. But this study has the potential to be a major catalyst for change on that front.”
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September 21, 2017