Chair Psycho Oncology Carlene Wilson cropped
 Jun 26, 2017

Understanding the emotional impact of cancer diagnosis

The Wellness & Supportive Care programs at the ONJ Cancer Centre acknowledge and treat the emotional impact of cancer through counselling, workshops and support groups.  Now a new Psycho Oncology position, funded partly with your support, will help us understand the much longer term impact of cancer on people’s lives, families and work.


“We want to know what we need to do to support cancer patients and their families, and survivors, during their cancer journey but also beyond as they progress into survivorship, five to ten years on,” says Prof Carlene Wilson, inaugural chair of Psycho Oncology at the ONJ Cancer Centre.


The culture of research is very strong at the ONJ Cancer Centre, but until now the focus has been on the development of new treatments.  There has not been the opportunity to undertake systematic research into wellness and supportive care, something which is about to change with Prof Wilson’s significant training in the field of Psychology and her love of research.


“We need to recognise that chronic illnesses are whole of life experiences and they are influencing more than just the person experiencing the illness.  We need to support the broader outcomes for the person, not just the end of the disease,” says Prof Wilson. “We want to find out if the wellness and supportive care programs are having a positive impact by developing a really strong evaluative framework.  Let’s actually make sure that these programs are making a difference.”


And that’s where the research kicks in.  Prof Wilson will explore what aspects of wellness and supportive care are really helping.  For example, is it the physically getting together in group situations (for example, group yoga) or is it the yoga experience itself?


“We want to drill down on what makes a support group or activity really work, who does it work for, who doesn’t it, what can we do to make it better,” says Prof Wilson.  “We can do something wonderful, but if everyone in the yoga studio is a 50 year-old woman, what about the 30 year-old men or the 16 year-old girls? How do we make our wellness and supportive care programs work for everyone?”


Patient-reported outcomes will form a large part of this research.


“Capturing the patient’s experiences from diagnosis right through to late-survivorship is really important,” says Prof Wilson.  “Unless we successfully capture what the experience means biologically, physically, psychologically and emotionally then we really can’t evaluate what we do.”


Prof Wilson commenced in the new role of chair of Psycho Oncology at the ONJ Centre in April, and her leadership will help begin to build a robust research program around our wellness and supportive care activities in the near future.


The chair of Psycho Oncology is a joint appointment and is partly funded through wellness and supportive care philanthropy and partly funded by Latrobe University.  

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