The number of people accessing cancer counselling services has increased by 68 per cent in just four years, according to figures released by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS).
1,464 people availed of the services in 2016, compared to 874 in 2012 and just 248 in 2009.
Limerick people represented more than 6 per cent of the national figure, with 91 people from the county availing of the counselling service. The Irish Cancer Society’s affiliated support centre providing counselling in Limerick is the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation in University Hospital Limerick.
Women still make up the vast majority of the service, with over 7 in 10 of the clients in 2016 being female while just under 3 in 10 were male.
The Society uses a short-term model, and often a client only needs one or two sessions to help them understand that their emotional reaction is normal and to enhance their own coping techniques.
ICS Community Support Network Coordinator Dorothy Thomas said the emotional effects of cancer may not be felt until weeks, months or years after the initial diagnosis. Often, it is only after treatment finishes that they realise how much cancer has changed their lives.
“This is where the network of community based cancer support centres, like the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation, play a vital role in providing much-needed counselling services.
“Cancer diagnoses affect a huge network of people and often the support is needed throughout an entire family. In 2016, over half of our clients were the person who had been diagnosed, 17 per cent were bereaved and 12 per cent were a partner or spouse, with the rest making up children, parents and siblings.
“We still have quite a lot of work to do to encourage men to attend our counselling service and address the gender imbalance. Only 28 per cent of clients were male but on a more positive note, the numbers have increased slightly since 2015. We need to make sure that that men with cancer, and their wives, sons or daughters, know that there is plenty of emotional support out there for them – and that it’s ok to access it and look for that help. “
The Mid-Western Cancer Foundation provides psychosocial care for cancer patients and their families in their own communities. The Irish Cancer Society works closely with these teams to provide a range of proven programmes, including the counselling service, free of charge to cancer patients and their families. Coping with cancer can be difficult and families may experience many emotions such as anxiety, fear and sadness.
The counselling service supports people of all ages affected by cancer. The majority of those attending the service across the country were between the ages of 45-64 (50 per cent) while almost one third of clients (26.3 per cent) were between the ages of 18 and 44 with this age group experiencing significant issues such as relationships, fertility and careers, all impacted on a cancer journey.
Clients under 18 made up 4.4 per cent of clients, almost all of these children were struggling with the diagnosis of a sibling or a significant adult in their life.
Other main results from the report include:
Breast cancer was the number one cancer represented and accounted for 31 per cent of clients.
Second was gastrointestinal cancers (bowel, oesophageal and stomach), which accounted for 13.1 per cent.
Brain cancer saw the biggest increase in clients, up 50 per cent since 2015.
95 per cent of clients reported an improved attitude to the future.
The Irish Cancer Society granted €352,890 to support centres across the country in 2016 to provide this free service to clients.
Those interested in accessing the counselling service, can contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie/support/counselling.