THE POSITIVE HEALTH PROJECT
The Positive Health Project Pty Ltd is passionate about ensuring people with cancer have access to essential services and support from the moment they receive their diagnosis. Many people suffer from an unnecessary physical decline during and after their cancer treatment and this can lead to significant impacts on their health, family, social life, work capacity, the success of their treatment and ultimately their quality of life. Cancer Rehabilitation helps people at all stages of their cancer and the focus is on helping people with cancer achieve their goals, maximise their health and give them a sense of control over their cancer.
In June 2020, The Positive Health Project opened their first clinic in Campbelltown, NSW, The Macarthur Cancer & Lymphoedema Clinic. The clinic was established to help address the lack of services in the local area for supporting people after a cancer diagnosis. The new clinic has the only PINC & STEEL trained Cancer Rehab Physio in the area, who is also dual trained as a lymphoedema therapist.
Hope Spencer is an experienced Physiotherapist with a history of working in the hospital & health care industry. To help specialise in cancer, Hope completed her cancer rehabilitation training through PINC & STEEL International and her lymphoedema training through Casley-Smith International. This training allows her to help local people during their cancer journey and provide support through exercise to help battle to negative side effects of cancer treatment, reduce the risk of relapse and improve the management of lymphoedema.
Hope has a special interest in breast cancer rehab and has the goal to help integrate cancer rehab into standard cancer care. She wants to ensure people with cancer are given the best chance at beating their cancer and achieving the best possible outcomes after their treatment. Optimising survivorship should be a focus of all cancer care and she hopes to be a part of the uprising of cancer rehabilitation in Australia.
THE POSITIVE HEALTH PROJECT THINKS IT'S IMPORTANT FOR ALL PEOPLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO CANCER REHABILITATION
When it comes to treating an individual, who has been diagnosed with cancer, we fall significantly short of providing holistic, optimal cancer care. I live in Australia and we have some of the best cancer survival rates in the world. We have many amazing charities and organisations that raise money for cancer research and assist in awareness campaigns. We have great screening programs for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer and the availability of the HPV vaccine for preventing cervical cancer. However, we are unfortunately seeing our cancer rates increase, with 1 in 7 women being diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 7 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer. This increase in number of people being diagnosed, combined with the previously mentioned increased survival rates, means a high percentage of our population have had an unwanted intimate experience of a fight against cancer. The battle can leave many significant, long-lasting and debilitating ‘scars’, impacting all aspects of a person’s life and health. It is understandable that ensuring the eradication of the cancer the main focus of the medical team, but it is possible to minimise the damage done to the patients’ health and wellbeing and this is why cancer rehabilitation should be accessible for all cancer survivors. We should be empowering cancer survivors to take control over their cancer, not just be passive passengers that are left to clean up the mess the cancer and cancer treatment has made. And this is possible through the provision of high-quality, evidence-based cancer rehabilitation services.
Despite all the research, exercise oncology and cancer rehabilitation are still relatively unheard-of terms in our oncology world. I was motivated to move into cancer rehabilitation by the release of a position statement from the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia regarding exercise and in cancer care. This statement recommended that exercise should be “embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care and be viewed as an adjunct therapy that helps counteract the adverse effects of cancer and it’s treatment”. As a physiotherapist, I never knew the role I could be playing in the area of oncology as it was never part of my formal studies or resulting clinical experience. Once I went down the metaphorical ‘rabbit-hole’ and committed to learning more about cancer rehabilitation, I was in shock. I was shocked at how much evidence there was to support the implementation of cancer rehabilitation and also shocked at the fact that this evidence hasn’t be translated into services in our health system.
There are beginnings of cancer rehabilitation and exercise oncology making its way into our health care, with some small programs and services being integrated into our public and private systems. But trying to get the oncologists to change their ways and refer to these services has been one of the most difficult steps of starting my own private cancer rehabilitation clinic. Armed with the evidence, passion and word of mouth, I hope I can change this, to show the medical and my local community the importance of cancer rehabilitation and why all people should have access to cancer rehabilitation. I no longer want to hear ‘why wasn’t I told about this sooner?’ or struggling to get doctors to refer early. When the evidence is so strong about how cancer rehabilitation can attenuate the side effects of cancer treatment and enhance the outcomes and recovery from cancer, we need continue to work hard to ensure all people have access to cancer rehabilitation.
I could present to you all the statistics and evidence in favour of cancer rehabilitation that have been published over the last decade.
I could write a long list of side effects that cancer rehabilitation can prevent and treat in order to reduce disability and improve quality of life.
I could show you the international guidelines that support the inclusion of cancer rehabilitation services as part of standard cancer care.
All of that is important for me as a health professional, it helps me know that my skills and knowledge have the potential to help someone during one of the most difficult times in their life. But for cancer survivors, cancer rehabilitation is more than data, statistics and articles. It is an alternative pathway for them to have a more empowered experience, to take back some of the thing’s cancer can take away like their physical health, psychological wellbeing, financial security, confidence, self-esteem... hope. Cancer rehabilitation sees the person, not the cancer, giving people a voice in what they want and allowing health professionals, such as myself, the opportunity to really make a difference in someone’s cancer journey. Ultimately, cancer rehabilitation should be accessible to everyone because everyone deserves the best chance at beating their cancer and have the support needed to help return them back to the life they want, and this is what cancer rehabilitation can help provide.