People undergoing chemotherapy for the first time are being put at ease thanks to a new pilot scheme from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
New Chemotherapy Education Sessions, run in partnership with Tenovus Cancer Care, give patients preparing to have chemotherapy a chance to hear from cancer experts and learn what the treatment involves.
Patients awaiting their first chemotherapy treatment at the North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre at Glan Clwyd Hospital are invited to attend the group sessions with a friend or family member for support.
The classes give participants an opportunity to talk to senior nursing staff and Tenovus representatives about chemotherapy, including what the treatment involves and advice on recuperating.
Currently running on a six-month trial scheme, the classes also include a tour of the cancer centre and an introduction to the ward staff who will treat them over the course of their chemotherapy.
Feedback from the first four weeks of the trial programme showed that 86 per cent of the sessions’ participants found them “extremely useful”, with similar numbers reporting their knowledge and understanding of chemotherapy had improved after the classes.
Pentre Halkyn resident Chris Dunning is one of the first people to attend the classes. Chris was recently told he would need surgery to remove a tumour in his oesophagus, and will undergo three cycles of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour.
Chris, who attended the class with his wife Teresa and daughter Laura, said he felt much more relaxed about his treatment after meeting with nurses and touring the Cancer Centre.
Chris said: “I found out four weeks ago that I’d need chemotherapy. I came in after some difficulties with my treatment for diabetes, where an upper GI endoscopy found that I had a tumour in my oesophagus.
“The consultants looked at it and agreed it was operable, and that I would have three cycles of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before surgery.
“From my point of view, the care I’ve had from everyone so far has been fantastic, and the chemotherapy education session has really helped me understand the treatment I’m about to have.
“I knew vaguely what chemotherapy was, but until you’re told you need it, you don’t really know exactly what to expect.
“Over the last few weeks I’ve had people tell me it’s a one-size-fits all treatment that just flushes you out, but having been here I can see it’s a lot more complicated and tailored than that, which has put my mind at ease.
“It’s also good to have been able to bring Teresa and Laura along. As a family we’ve tried to be as informed as we can about the chemotherapy, and allowing them to come and hear first-hand what the treatment involves, so they can share the information with my other children, has been really important.”
“The class has made a big difference, and taken a lot of the trepidation I had about the treatment away.”
Chris’ wife Teresa agreed, saying: “It’s been so important to come in and meet everyone and find out exactly where we need to be on the first day. It just puts you at ease from the start.
Beryl Roberts, a Matron at the North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre who runs the classes, said: “We’re now three months into the trial scheme, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Patients have said they really appreciate having a safe environment to talk about the treatment and their concerns. Having chemotherapy for the first time can be a scary, but the feedback has shown that having a calming, expert voice to talk about it has really helped.
“It makes a real difference being able to put a name to a face and knowing exactly where you’re going on day one, and what you’ll be doing. Anything we can do to make the process of undergoing chemotherapy easier has to be a good thing.”
Rachael Sharples, a Cancer Support Advisor for Tenovus, said: “The trial’s been a real success so far. The overwhelming feedback is that the classes are easing people’s fears about chemotherapy.
“Understandably, they’re apprehensive about their treatment, but showing them around the department so they know where they’re coming on the day makes a big difference.
“We also team up with the Health Board to run similar Radiotherapy sessions on a monthly basis, which are also really well received.”
For further information on support available from Tenovus Cancer Care, contact the charity’s Freephone support line on 0808 808 1010.