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MUHC survivorship program brings attention to the internal struggle of cancer survivors

WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Genevieve Chaput talks about World Cancer Day

MONTREAL — World Cancer Day brings awareness to those suffering from the disease.

It asks that people do what they can to help, but as Dr. Genevieve Chaput from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) points out, many often forget the emotional scars cancer survivors are left with once they are in remission.

In the last few decades, cancer research has significantly changed the way the disease is treated.

“People are now earlier detected, they have better treatments and we have more survivors,” Chaput said.

“There’s one million survivors in Canada right now.”

“By 2020, we’re expecting to have two million so obviously things are progressing well.”

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Due to many different treatments, cancer has become a “livable disease,” or a “chronic disease” for many.

“You survive, and you can move on with your life and live a fairly normal life,” said Chaput.

Surviving cancer

Chaput, a family physician who specializes in cancer survivors, leads the Cancer Survivorship Program at the MUHC, which helps survivors overcome the struggles that come after cancer, which include:

  • healing emotionally;
  • finding work;
  • getting the support they need; and
  • moving on.

“There’s a well known quote that says ‘You can be cancer free, but you’re never free of the disease itself,’ and in many respects that’s true,” said Chaput.

“If you are a cancer survivor we are so happy for you, but we also know that you might have a higher risk of having cardio-vascular problems.”

The challenges don’t stop at the physical side effects.

“We know that you might have fear of recurrence, so you might have some psychological problems that need some help, maybe your cognitive functions, the way you think and function is different.”

The Cancer Survivorship Program is partnering with Cedar Cancer Support and the Rossy Cancer Network to educate survivors, their families and even their family doctors on what to expect once they’ve finished their treatment.

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“We are always working to improve the communication between the specialists who provide the treatments at the MUHC and the doctors in the community such that no person who has cancer falls through the cracks,” she said.

In this way, survivors are properly monitored in the weeks, months, years to come, something Chaput insists is crucial for survivors to regain self-esteem and self-confidence.

“It’s not to scare people, it’s about empowerment and preventative measures.”