Giving cancer patients a seat at the Table


Individuals living with cancer and their care givers have social care needs as well as health needs. Most times, these needs are often inadequately dealt with by health professionals due to lack of specialist skills and capacity to manage these needs emerging needs.

Research shows individuals diagnosed with cancer believe that service provision to help with emotional aspects of cancer is important, rating this above medical needs. Mr Paul Ebusu of Uganda Cancer Society chaired a patient group pavilion session on patients navigating cancer care alongside Mr. Anselm Kanagawa from Palliafamilli in Congo and Ms Demetria Lubinga of Breakthough Cancer Trust in Uganda.


Mr Anselm Kanagawa discussed the challenges faced by cancer patients in Congo such as cultural taboos which create stigma and limited financial means. Mr. Kanagawa expressed the important role of psychosocial spiritual services in cancer care. He encouraged present social workers and patient advocates to continue to be transparent and inclusive in involving patients in their care and decision making. Patient centered cancer care, he said, should contain specific deliverables that can be implementable by all clinical team members. He also emphasized how social workers and patient advocates can train nurses, physicians, and other members of the clinical care team to use bio psychosocial methods in their clinical practice.

Ms Demetria Lubinga from Breakthrough Cancer Trust noted individuals with cancer have complex and wide ranging health and social care needs that vary depending on the type of cancer, patient profile and stage of cancer journey. However a large proportion of these individuals do not feel confident about how and where to access social care and support. In some cases, these individuals are socially shunned and have no where to turn. Cancer patients need emotional and practical support, financial help, respite care, and advice throughout their cancer journey. Ms. Lubinga noted social workers and patient advocates provide holistic support that enables those living with cancer to have increased independence and an improved quality of life. They also provide effective emotional and psychological support for cancer patients, their family members and caregivers. Her ongoing research on the needs of cancer patients identified patients wanted more counseling services, and information on nutrition and medical treatment plans.

During the open discussion, social workers and patient advocates from Scotland, Malaysia, Singapore, and Kenya took the floor to share their experiences in providing care to patients diagnosed with cancer. They also shared their aspirations on improving access to all and their views on the current framework of cancer care. Views were repeatedly held that clinical care teams work together with patients through open dialogue and cooperation. Speakers held the view that the social work community has a moral obligation to advocate for concrete outcomes that will transform the lives of cancer patients.Thereby providing a point of support to patients currently facing this complex health condition.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Paul Ebusu expressed his appreciation for the richness of the conversation and dialogue which he believed were crucial next steps in improving patient access to social workers and patient advocates. He applauded the professionals who had chosen to support people affected by cancer to exercise greater choice and control at all stages of their care pathway. He encouraged them to continue their good work in their respective countries despite the many challenges they faced in providing care. Social support in cancer care must move up the agenda so that cancer patients and their care givers are not left to cope with the consequences of cancer alone.

Article contributed by Bukunmi, Gesinde