Suffolk pharmacist uses new cancer training to help patient get critical early diagnosis
- Credit: MARK HEWLETT/CANCER RESEARCH UK
A Suffolk pharmacist has told how she put new life-saving training into practise to help a patient gain early help for cancer – increasing the chances of survival.
Tania Farrow, chief officer for Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, is one of 33 pharmacy professionals across the county and 45 from Essex to sign-up to a new scheme called Talk Cancer.
Under the programme, pharmacists, dispensers and counter staff are being trained by specialist “facilitators” from Cancer Research UK to spot customers who might have symptoms of the disease and feel more confident speaking to them about it.
The project, made possible by donations to the charity, is being rolled out across the East of England after a successful pilot in Great Yarmouth.
Ms Farrow utilised her new skills when speaking to a patient who was concerned about changes in her bowel habit.
“Despite having received a screening kit earlier in the year, she had not sent a sample as she was afraid of what it might show,” Ms Farrow said.
“During a discussion about her fears and using the information I had learned, I was able to explain how much more successful treatment could be if her condition was diagnosed early.”
Ms Farrow encouraged the patient to speak to her GP and she was later diagnosed with bowel cancer.
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As the disease was caught quickly, the patient was told it had not spread and her treatment was likely to be successful.
Donna Reeve, Cancer Research UK facilitator manager for the East of England, said: “Research suggested pharmacists wanted to do more, but don’t always feel equipped to talk about cancer or are worried about saying the wrong thing. The majority have never received any kind of cancer awareness training before on how to have conversations as well as what to say.
“Whether pharmacy staff are giving advice about stop smoking services, buying sunscreen or talking to someone who is concerned about symptoms, Talk Cancer improves their knowledge and confidence to make the most of these conversations and nudge them in the right direction.”
Leanne Pang, from Aqua Pharmacy in Ipswich, is another Talk Cancer graduate.
“The training was really informative and useful,” she said. “It’s made me think about things from a patient’s perspective. I haven’t had to chat to any patients yet about cancer but I would feel confident to do that now.”
There are plans to run further Talk Cancer courses for pharmacy staff throughout the region.
Talk Cancer is part of a wider project involving more than 5,700 GP practices and other health service professionals across the UK to drive early improvements in the diagnosis and prevention of cancer.
An average GP will see 8,000 patients a year – around seven of those will have cancer.