Four out of 10 cancer patients seek professional counselling within a year of diagnosis.
An Irish Cancer Society report on community-based services also found that more than one in four patients needed counselling within two years of diagnosis.
The society’s national counselling programme provided €219,840 in grants to 17 affiliated community-based, cancer-support services last year.
The service is available to anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis and helps them see things differently, learn new coping skills, and find their way through a difficult period.
Last year, the society funded a total of 3,879 professional counselling sessions for people affected directly or indirectly by a cancer diagnosis.
Almost one in four people who use the service suffer from anxiety, fear, and stress and almost one in five needed help adjusting to life after cancer.
The society has found that the effect of cancer has a ripple effect — more than a quarter of those attending the service are relatives of a cancer patient, usually an adult child.
Also, more than one in five of those attending were bereaved due to cancer. Over half had lost their loved one within two years of attending counselling.
Those people found they needed support in the months and years after the immediate impact of the illness.
The report showed that women are more likely to seek professional counselling than men — 77% of women sought counselling last year, compared to 23% of men.
Over half of those who used the service were between the ages of 41 and 60.
Separately, 51% of cancer patients attending the Cork ARC Cancer Support House had sought counselling less than a year after a cancer diagnosis.
The society supported 457 counselling sessions held in the Cork centre.
Of those attending, 40% were relatives of a diagnosed person, and 24% were also bereaved due to cancer.
The society’s patient support services manager, Olwyn Ryan, said their affiliates around the country were best placed to support patients and families.
“Cancer patients and their families may experience anxiety, anger, sadness and depression,” said Ms Ryan. “These emotions can occur at any time, even months or years after a cancer diagnosis and it’s important to recognise the need for this type of assistance.”
* Cancer patients and their relatives can find their nearest affiliate support centre at www.cancer.ie or telephone the ICS helpline on 1800 200 700.
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