Naturally the time following a diagnosis of cancer can be confusing, worrying and devastating. There is such a lot of information to take in – and many important decisions to be made.
One question that many diagnosed with cancer are particularly concerned about involves accessing cancer care in the future that is appropriate for their needs.
Following a diagnosis of cancer the primary focus of professionals is often medical care, with additional care coming separately and secondarily to your initial health needs.
Yet cancer care is important – and the type of care you require and the place you choose to access it both need to be considered carefully. In this article we share five easy to follow tips for anyone facing the prospect of cancer care, to help you to learn more about the options available and decide which is best for you.
The NHS provides a scheme called NHS Continuing Healthcare.
This comprises of free at-home care or care in a residential facility or hospice for individuals with long-term ongoing care needs.
This funding and care provision covers the cost of personal care and healthcare – plus the cost of accommodation if you receive the care in a residential facility. Palliative care is sometimes also available on the NHS – but the options available vary depending on your location.
To see if you are eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare you’ll first apply via your doctor, nurse or social worker, providing information about your condition, prognosis and the things you need help with.
They will then complete a checklist before referring you for a full assessment. This will determine the type of care you’ll get, and how frequently you’ll receive it.
Your eligibility will depend completely on your situation – and some individuals may qualify for a different type or amount of support compared with others.
Other free support is available from charitable organisations and in the form of social care. Social care for instance can cover personal care, companionship and carer respite. Social services can also offer support with basic household tasks such as cleaning, cooking meals and taking care of laundry.
Although it’s unpleasant to consider (and sometimes uncertain), your prognosis will be an important factor in the cancer care decision-making process.
Things change – and your care should be adaptable enough to change with your condition and preferences. Speaking to your consultant or nurses should help you to develop a clearer idea of your prognosis.
For instance following receipt of test results doctors are usually able to provide timescales and recovery prospects, along with various treatment plans. Bear in mind that your choice of treatment may also affect your prognosis.
Once you have discussed your prognosis with your doctor, you can then make a plan accordingly and investigate the various types of cancer care available.
Whilst on the NHS cancer care tends to follow specific pathways and guidelines determined based on your condition and prognosis, private cancer care does provide individuals with an element of choice.
Some for example feel that they need further support, whilst others would rather be away from home or need to be in a facility, but want to decide independently where they stay.
There are private cancer care and treatment centres up and down the UK, but mostly treatment centres and medical professionals are found in the South and surrounding London. Large private healthcare insurance companies, such as BMI, do have hospitals with cancer care specialists and treatment available.
Homes and facilities providing non-specialist cancer care on a number of levels can be found more easily, but still aren’t as abundant as they are in other countries.
Whilst private cancer care and treatment does provide patients with more choice, there is no evidence (according to studies conducted by Cancer Research UK) that outcomes are better as a result of private support compared with NHS treatment
It’s devastating to consider palliative care – but it’s important.
If you have been given an indication that you could require palliative care at some point in the future, its best to think about and plan for it now, so that you are ready to access this type of cancer care as soon as you need it.
Hospices and palliative care centres can be focused solely on cancer – or offer support for a range of conditions. Palliative care can also be provided at home – with local authority and NHS support available, as well as charitable assistance.
Macmillan and Marie Curie in particular focus on providing palliative nursing care at home, in line with their dying in dignity campaigns
In lots of cases family members step up to help out, especially when their relative doesn’t have access to enough funding for professional cancer care.
It’s important in these cases to ensure that your loved one is supported in their role both emotionally and financially. Cancer care charities including Marie Curie and Cancer Research UK provide support groups and counselling for carers, along with respite care.
Local authorities also provide respite where appropriate – this can be arranged via social services.
Financially there is support available for carers in the form of welfare payments – notably Attendance Allowance and Carers Allowance. You can find out if you are eligible by speaking directly with the Department of Work and Pensions, your local JobCentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau.
It’s also important to recognise when professional cancer care is required, and ensure that carers are supported in their role or relieved of it when necessary. Keep in touch with your consultant and nurses and ask that they are honest with you about how they are feeling.
This is a difficult time for you and you may require additional cancer care in the form of emotional support or counselling. Contact your social worker or get in touch with cancer charities to learn more about the options available – including support groups and buddy schemes.
UK Care Guide specialises in providing clear, comprehensive information for millions facing cancer care and other types of care in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Need more information about cancer care? Learn more about cancer care location, funding and support here – or take a look through our other cancer care resources here.