Professor Patsy Yates

A new QUT study aims to help cancer survivors improve their quality of life, both physically and psychologically, when they have completed their treatment.

The study, funded by the federal Department of Health and Ageing, is being conducted by QUT researcher Professor Patsy Yates who won the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia's 2009 Tom Reeve Oration Award for her research contribution to care for people affected by cancer.

Professor Yates, from QUT's School of Nursing and Midwifery, said the research would focus on developing self-care skills for survivors of two common cancers: bowel and breast cancer.

People who have finished cancer treatment have reached a major milestone but often they still have to live with side effects of the surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy such as fatigue or changes in diet as well as ongoing anxiety about the cancer returning, Professor Yates said.

While they are undergoing cancer treatment people often have lots of support on hand but they also need support when their treatment has finished so that they can feel more in control and get back to living a normal life.

We want to develop a self-care skills program for cancer survivors so that they can manage these side effects. For example, some breast cancer treatment can put women into early menopause and so they need help through this phase of their recovery.

After treatment, cancer survivors also need to be able to assess when they need to see their doctor so they don't have to worry that they must visit the doctor for every symptom.

Professor Yates said the study's goals included finidng ways for people to do psychological self-care and would involve survivors' partners and families as support people.

We are looking at ways to help people so they are not consumed with worry between post-treatment check-ups, she said.

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