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  • Cancer survivors face challenges

    Author: AAP

When GP Elysia Thornton-Benko suspected something wasn't quite right with her body she did everything she tells her patients not to - ignored the symptoms and carried on.

"In typical doctor fashion I didn't take my own advice," said Dr Thornton-Benko.

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"I did have some very vague, nondescript symptoms early on last year.

"I had one instinctive moment that I ignored as a typical busy doctor with kids would."

It was only months later when Thornton-Benko experienced unbearable pelvic pain that she took herself off to hospital and was diagnosed with a non-aggressive form of ovarian tumour.


"I would hope a member of the general population would go off and see their GP much earlier, sometimes doctors are their own worst enemy."

The Sydney mother-of-two is involved with Cancer Council NSW, offering advice to the charity on issues post cancer patients can face.

The charity is now preparing for Daffodil Day, the Council's biggest fundraising and awareness campaign, on August 22.

According to the charity, the survival rate in Australia for all cancers is now higher than ever, at 66 per cent.

In terms of survivorship issues, up to 70 per cent of cancer survivors have reported clinical levels of fear of their cancer returning, according to the charity.

Nearly a third of all cancer survivors experience some kind of psychological issue, such as anxiety or depression, six months after their cancer.

Cancer Council NSW head of practical support Annie Miller said contrary to what people might expect, life does not always go back to "normal" after cancer.

"Survivors are often facing a difficult journey post treatment, with many experiencing practical and psychological needs that fall outside the care of the overburdened health sector," said Ms Miller.

Post-treatment information and support programs are hugely beneficial for cancer survivors, she said.

Ms Miller said it's thanks to funds raised by the community through events like Daffodil Day that the charity can continue to offer survivorship support programs that can help people with practical issues, such as returning to work or legal challenges, as well as psychological support.

After her own experience, Dr Thornton-Benko said she found many people who are fortunate not to have experienced cancer are unaware of the issues patients can face post treatment.

"Cancer is very life changing for the individual and sometimes other people don't want to hear about it anymore; they say `you look great, let's move on'," said Dr Thornton-Benko.

"They don't always want to go there again, they don't want to hear it, but for the cancer survivor it's a huge thing for them.

"There are fertility issues, fear of recurrence, people have sometimes post-chemo fatigue, they want to get back to work but they've got these issues with fatigue.

"There are body image issues, psychology issues, and so on."

Dr Thornton-Benko said the Cancer Council NSW's free programs are helpful in assisting cancer survivors to cope better in adjusting to their "new normal".

Copyright AAP 2014


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