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Abuse Survivors with Cancer: Ideas for Improved Engagement and Outcomes

The Problem
An estimated 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are previous survivors of childhood sexual abuse (citation from: Journal Psychological Oncology). These numbers do not include additional survivors of physical abuse and may indicate that childhood abuse (or ACEs) affects a significant percentage of cancer patients. Given the number of patients seen daily for cancer treatment and in clinics, practitioners are likely working with numerous patients every day with this history.

Important for Clinicians
photo of a man under a radiation mask, surrounded by a radiation machineResearch indicates that survivors of childhood abuse have lower rates of compliance with cancer treatment and worse outcomes. Patients may refuse or not complete potentially curative or life-extending treatment, lash out unpredictably during procedures and experience significant trauma and triggering from practitioners' well-intentioned help.

Which clinicians are most affected? Surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, medical students and residents, chemotherapy/radiation/oncology nurses and students, palliative care teams, radiation therapists and students.

Outside of oncology, any healthcare professional that performs "invasive" procedures (e.g. colonoscopies, mammograms, certain forms of ultrasound, etc) or has high-intensity contact with patients might benefit from this session.

The Session
Abuse Survivors with Cancer: Ideas for Improved Engagement & Outcomes is an inservice to promote awareness, discussion and quickly-implementable solutions. It can be delivered virtually or in-person to affected practitioners and/or policy makers.

Benefits to Healthcare Professionals:
  • Learn about research findings that support this type of initiative
  • Hear patient experiences that bring the research to life
  • Contribute to meaningful discussion on how clinicians and cancer centres can help
  • Gain specific, simple strategies that may be implemented in your daily practice
  • Connect with other practitioners and share insights that support each other and your practice

  • Dr. Terry Soleas, Director of Queen's University's Continuing Professional Development unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences plans to include this session in Fall 2021 schedules and is encouraging similar organizations across the country to engage with this initiative.

    Why Me?
    As a contract instructor in the Queen's University School of Medicine for 22 years and the spouse of a current cancer patient, I have been inspired to initiate this project.

    Healthcare professionals are the focus of my practice and as a spouse who has been going through the more complicated trauma associated with cancer treatments after childhood abuse in my partner, I believe that I am uniquely positioned to contribute to this topic. I have been invited to discuss the value of these sessions as part of the Humanities in Medicine series at Queen's University. More about me

    I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject. I can be reached initially through my email and then we can connect by phone/video conferencing. Thank you so much for your interest in helping future patients and your own practice.