NEW YORK, June 14. OLYMPIC champion Dara Torres is a spokeswoman for the Colon Cancer Alliance it was announced recently. The announcement was made simultaneously with the release of a new study on the importance of a personal support network for coping with the disease.
People with colorectal cancer (CRC) who have friends or loved ones caring for them by providing emotional support, accompanying them to doctors' appointments or helping with daily activities, are more likely to feel that they have enough information to make confident treatment decisions than those who do not have a support network. These are the findings of the survey conducted by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) among people living with CRC or caring for someone with the disease.
Dara Torres, whose father was diagnosed with CRC in 2001, is an advocate for building a personal support network to navigate the sometimes-daunting journey through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Torres recently partnered with the CCA in the launch of the Roots of Support in CRC program, an initiative aimed at encouraging people with CRC and their loved ones to confront the disease as a team.
“I understand how people can feel at a loss when someone they care for is diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” said Torres.
“I am one of six kids, and we found that the little things we each could offer made the biggest difference for our father – searching the Internet, asking his doctors the tough questions, running errands – doing the things that came easily for us, but were difficult for him to ask for. Providing this kind of support helped educate our family in the process and gave us confidence in deciding what to do next.”
Dara was the first American to swim in four Olympics (1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000) and the second-most decorated U.S. female Olympian, with nine Olympic medals. She will serve as an NBC correspondent for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. After her father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2001, she became actively involved in his treatment and education. She is committed to raising awareness about CRC and the critical role of family and friends in confronting the disease.
“People with colorectal cancer often want to avoid ‘burdening’ others with requests for help,” said Randy Lopez, CCA board member and CRC survivor. “At the same time, family and friends can feel uncomfortable offering help or initiating discussions about the ways in which their lives are going to change. Communication and support create empowerment, which is critical for fighting the disease.”
According to the CCA survey, 83% of respondents who have loved ones helping them cope agree that they have enough information to make treatment decisions, compared to 67% of respondents who are caring for themselves. Additionally, the majority of respondents (81%) agreed that they would be likely to bring information about new and different therapies to the attention of a healthcare provider if they were aware of those options.
About the Survey
In April and May 2004, the CCA conducted an online poll of adult men and women living with CRC or caring for someone with the disease. A total of 361 interviews were completed, including 233 people with CRC (65%) and 128 caregivers (35%). Conducted by WirthlinWorldwide, an independent market research firm, the survey gauged what types of support are provided most often to people with CRC, who primarily offers support, and how knowledgeable respondents felt in the areas of disease education and treatment.
Additional Survey Findings
Emotional support and involvement in physician visits is key.
· The two greatest ways in which people with CRC receive support from loved ones are through:
o Providing emotional support (92%) and
o Accompanying them to doctors’ appointments (80%).
Caregiving may be linked to gender and stage of disease.
· Men who are living with CRC are more likely than women to have a loved one or friend who is actively involved in helping them cope with the disease (82% vs 66%).
· Approximately two-thirds (64%) of advanced CRC respondents report that a friend or loved one is “very involved” in their treatment decisions, compared to 47% of early stage respondents.
The “little things” matter.
· Assistance with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning and laundry accounted for nearly 70% of support provided by loved ones.
· More than 60% of caregivers help by running errands, while more than 40% assist with personal care.
“These survey findings show that a support network matters,” said Amy Kelly, Program Director for the CCA.
“Roots of Support is a much-needed program that reminds people living with CRC that they do not have to face this disease alone. It also encourages others, whether they are a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor, to recognize the importance of the unique support they can offer, however big or small.”
Roots of Support in CRC
The Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) developed the Roots of Support in CRC program to help people living with CRC and their loved ones fight the disease together, through outreach, communication and education. Components of the program include a patient guide titled Cultivating a Network of Support and a guide for loved ones titled Offering Hope and Support. Brochures can be ordered and/or downloaded free of charge by visiting www.ccalliance.org/roots. Roots of Support in CRC is made possible through the generosity of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and ImClone Systems Incorporated.
About Colorectal Cancer
According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer includes cancers of the colon, rectum, appendix and anus. When abnormal cell growth occurs, a tumor develops. If the cells of a tumor acquire the ability to invade and thus spread into the intestinal wall and to other sites, a malignant or cancerous tumor develops. Most colorectal cancers develop first as colorectal polyps, which are growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous.
In 2004, an estimated 146,940 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and 56,730 Americans will die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined, second only to lung cancer.
About the Colon Cancer Alliance
The Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) is a national patient advocacy organization dedicated to ending the suffering caused by colorectal cancer. The CCA brings the voice of survivors to battle colorectal cancer through patient support, education, research and advocacy. In order to achieve these goals, the CCA hereby declares war on colorectal cancer. Today, CCA has over 9,000 members, including colon and rectal cancer survivors, their families, caregivers, people genetically predisposed to the disease and the medical community.
For more information about the Roots of Support in CRC program, visit http://www.ccalliance.org/roots or call 1-877-422-2030.