A brief guide to ... help for cancer sufferers

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Little wonder that people find it hard to talk about their cancer. The word itself has become a taboo, whispered and often avoided altogether. Tumour, growth, outgrowth, Big C, malignancy, lump, shadow are all more acceptable to many doctors as well as their patients in whom cancer has been diagnosed. However reliable modern treatment may be it is still a serious and frightening diagnosis that triggers a complex mixture of psychological and practical anxieties.

"When I heard the word cancer my mind went completely blank. I don't think I heard a single word the doctor said after that." This patient's statement will be an echo of many others and is contained in the latest short guide produced by Bacup, the national cancer patients' charity.

Bacup runs a cancer helpline and the new booklet, Who Can Ever Understand? Talking About Your Cancer, recognises the "tremendous isolation" felt by many patients and aims to help people to understand their emotions.

Nikki Hill, a Bacup spokeswoman, said: "Our experience shows us that people with cancer find it difficult, sometimes impossible, to talk to the people close to them."

The authors, Dr Robert Buckman, a clinical oncologist, and John Elsegood, a behavioural scientist, take the reader through the responses of shock, disbelief and denial in a commonsense way. They give strategies for responding to the reactions of other people, ideas on how to tell other people about your cancer, and on how to tell your children. There are tips too on dealing with doctors and other health professionals.

Another new addition to the Bacup library is Sexuality and Cancer: A guide for people with cancer and their partners, by Dr Andrew Stanway. "Most people with cancer will experience some sort of sexual difficulty. Some people feel so lucky to be alive that they feel guilty thinking about sexual relations. Others may be dealing with underlying anger, frustration or grief that can dampen sexual desire," says Dr Stanway. He also explains some of the dos and don'ts of sexual activity for people who are having cancer treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Both booklets are available free from Bacup, 3, Bath Place, Rivington Street, London EC2A 3JR. Send large SAE (30p) or telephone 0171-696 9003. Bacup helpline 0800 181199.

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