Medical Professionals

As you know, the 5-year survival rate for all SEER stages of breast cancer is 90%. The 10-year survival rate is 80%. While your patient’s individual prognosis may, of course, be different that the national statistics, the fact remains that more women are surviving breast cancer and living beyond 5 and 10 years.  This is in part due to early detection, better treatments, and your expert care.

However, as you also know, quality of life during those survivorship years is affected by cancer and its treatments.  Fatigue, brain fog, poor bone health, and pain are among the top reported side-effects after cancer.  As a wealth of research suggests, these side-effects are best managed with healthy lifestyle choices.

Thus, the need for informed lifestyle choices beyond the scope of medical treatments is imperative to their quality of life after your patients leave your care.  These choices include nutrition, exercise, and other strategies to mitigate the stress they experience in their daily lives to lower the risk of recurrence and help ease the burden of comorbidities.

Medical Professionals Are the Experts On Health

Oncologists are the experts in diagnosing, evaluating, treating cancer, and mitigating the side effects of those treatments. But beyond your office, your patient is faced with so many other choices.  Your patient will choose whether to follow your treatment advice or not.  They choose what they eat and how they prepare food.  A cancer survivor will decide if they want to exercise or not.  And if they choose to exercise, they will decide what that will look like for them.  Your patient will decide how they will live their life, regardless of your professional advice, unfortunately. 

Your Patient Is Not Likely to Follow Your Expert Health Recommendations

According to the 2010 report titled A Snapshot of People’s Engagement in Their Healthcare, over 60% of adults do not comply with doctor’s recommendations.  About 25% of patients do not have confidence their medications will be effective, often leaving them unfilled or not taking them as directed. And about 30% of middle age to elderly adults leave a doctor’s office feeling unsure about what they should do.

The American College of Preventative Medicine found that non-adherence to medical advice accounted for approximately 125,000 deaths annually and 10% of hospitalizations. And these numbers are likely much higher if lifestyle changes were included. 

“Between $100 and $300 billion of avoidable health care costs have been attributed to nonadherence in the US annually, representing 3% to 10% of total US health care costs.”

Iuga AO, McGuire MJ. Adherence and health care costs. Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2014;7:35-44. Published 2014 Feb 20. doi:10.2147/RMHP.S19801

Why Don’t People Follow Your Medical Advice?

Many people report having issues communicating with their health care providers.  Specifically, breast cancer survivors who reported less engagement with their physicians experienced worse quality of care and quality of life over the course of treatments and beyond.

A good majority of people report that they have trouble making the recommended lifestyle changes to improve chronic health conditions. 

Many breast cancer survivors believe that the steps necessary are disruptive and report feeling overwhelmed by the life changes recommended.

No doubt, you have experience this already; simply telling your patient they need to change lifestyle patterns doesn’t work. Telling them how to change makes them even more resistant to modifying their health behaviors. And this results in increased risk of cancer recurrence and poorer quality of life after these people leave your office.  

Of course, you do not want this for your patients.  It is an unintended consequence of how busy you are in your practice.  You simply do not have time or resources to do the follow up needed to help your patient ease into healthier lifestyle choices.

And, when it comes to health-related lifestyle behaviors, many doctors report not having the time or detailed knowledge required to impart these behaviors in their clients.

How do Breast Cancer Survivors Make Decisions About Their Health?

Your patient’s health decisions result not just from education, but also from social influences, culture, and beliefs.  Your patient’s participation in their own care is vital to successful outcomes.  And their belief that they can make those changes is also key in managing chronic illness, reducing side-effects of treatments, and lowering risk of cancer recurrence.  

Allowing people to make their own decisions related to lifestyle changes works

Partnering with your client to help them decide which changes are possible in their life is even more effective.  Of course, this takes a little more of your time and patience.  But it will build trust with your client and they will feel that you care about the outcome of their health.

“For effective patient-centeredness to be established patients should be able to discuss their own ideas about self-care actions, including lifestyle management in an unhurried fashion and with a practitioner who has the time and who is willing to listen.”

Rees S, Williams A. Promoting and supporting self-management for adults living in the community with physical chronic illness: A systematic review of the effectiveness and meaningfulness of the patient-practitioner encounter. JBI Libr Syst Rev. 2009;7(13):492-582.

Patient-Centered Behavioral Strategies to Improve Self-Management of Cancer

Approximately 99% of care in chronic conditions, including cancer, is guided by the patient themselves.  Every single day, a person decides for themselves if they will eat healthy foods, exercise, or even take their medication.

Using peers educated to assist your client in making good choices in their health care is a strategy that is very effective. After Cancer Coach uses this approach, respecting your patient’s right to choose their own direction and encouraging peer discussions about healthy living.

“Peer support connects two or more people who have the same disease and often the same frustrations, so they can relate to each other’s feelings and anxieties. Peer support helps people cope with the necessary behaviour changes and assists them in making positive lifestyle changes.”

Funnell MM. Peer-based behavioural strategies to improve chronic disease self-management and clinical outcomes: evidence, logistics, evaluation considerations and needs for future research. Fam Pract. 2010 Jun;27 Suppl 1:i17-22.

Let Me Help You Help Your Breast Cancer Patient Live a Better Life

I am Patricia Prince, founder of After Cancer Coach. As you can see from my biography, I have gone through most of the diagnostics and treatments of breast cancer.  I was successful at changing my lifestyle behaviors to support my cancer treatments and to heal from the side effects.  I wanted to help others improve their quality of life too. Educated and certified in evidence-based health coaching, I am a peer and can help breast cancer patients move towards healthier lifestyles.   

Access to Healthy Living Resources

Members of my After Cancer Coach Academy will have access to a wealth of resources for healthy living after breast cancer, as well as additional peer group support.

In this monthly membership program, there are rotating educational materials, healthy recipes, peer-supported chat groups, and various exercise and mindfulness challenges to help them advance their health goals. It is a well-rounded and continually evolving evidence-based resource for living a mindful and healthier life during cancer survivorship.

If you are a licensed health care professional and would like free access to this membership program, please email me at [email protected]

Course for Managing Cancer-Related Fatigue

As you know, cancer fatigue is one of the most commonly reported side-effect of the disease and its treatments. Cancer-related fatigue disrupts a survivor’s daily life, relationships, and social activities.  It is experienced to different degrees in individuals and can be particularly debilitating. Getting more sleep or prescribing sleep medications do not help with the distressing feelings of exhaustion and weariness.  Healthy lifestyle changes are needed to manage this condition that can last for years after treatments are finished.

Using the guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, I am currently developing a 12-week program to address cancer-related fatigue experienced by breast cancer survivors.  This program is designed to help them develop the health habits and lifestyle changes needed to improve their energy levels. 

If you would like more information about my programs, please reach out at [email protected] 

Please download my brochure for your clients: