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Macmillan radiographer Lisa Mann
A Helping Hand Through Your Cancer Treatment
03 April 2013

Offering help and support, Lisa Mann is a shining star guiding cancer patients through their radiotherapy sessions.

As a Macmillan information and support radiographer at Ipswich Hospital she is on hand to answer questions and alleviate patients and relatives’ anxieties. “I was a therapeutic radiographer for many years and then I moved into clinical teaching for our undergraduate students, which I really enjoyed, but I missed the patients,” she said. “This specialist Macmillan information and support role came up and it seemed like a natural transition, just what I wanted to slot into – it’s really patient-focused and I can use the teaching and counselling skills I’ve learnt to help patients and their families understand the radiotherapy process they’re going through. “I am there to offer help, support and advice. “Quite often the patients I see are worried because a family member or friend may have had a past bad experience of radiotherapy, or they may have misconceptions about the treatment itself. Often there are anxieties about the different types of treatment and even getting to hospital is a big concern.

“Radiotherapy treatment can be highly complex as we often treat radically i.e. to cure, it can be used to treat prophylactically or give palliation of symptoms. “There are therefore different anxieties according to the cancer journey. “Practically I can help patients access Macmillan grants for financial concerns such as paying for petrol to get the hospital for treatment. “For younger patients with families there are often concerns about childcare. “I try to help patients by discussing family, spiritual, emotional, physical and practical concerns to help them cope more easily with their treatment. “I’ll always link with support services, both in the hospital and the community.

“Being a Macmillan professional has its benefits. “Many patients almost have a warm glow when you mention the word Macmillan, for others there is still an association with Macmillan and end of life care. “Although we do palliative care there is so much more to the charity too and there are many professionals like social workers, benefits advisers and posts like mine.

“Sometimes when a patient has had surgery to remove the cancer they still need radiotherapy treatments; that can be difficult for a patient to come to terms with. “I help them understand the rationale behind it. Often the treatment is used to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. It can be a confusing time for a patient – weighing up the possible side effects to the consequences of perhaps not having treatment. “On the last day of treatment I will often have a one-to-one conversation with the patient and we’ll go through what support is available to them. “After something like seven and a half weeks of regular treatment it can be quite a shock when this stops. “You can almost become institutionalised. I had one patient who was worried about finishing treatment for this reason. We signpost patients to courses we have like the HOPE course, which is Helping to Overcome Problems Effectively. “Or there’s exercise classes which we’ve found helps patients rehabilitate and overcome side effects such as fatigue. “Quite often there is a lot to deal with in terms of the long-term effects of treatment and it can be difficult for some people to move forward.

“Lots of patients benefit from having complementary therapies to help live with and beyond cancer and I regularly use acupuncture with my patients to alleviate hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms associated with some cancer treatments.

“I see about 130 patients a month. My patients are the best part of this job – even if I have 100 having the same treatment, they’re all individuals. I love the ‘light bulb moment’, when I’ve explained something and they understand what it means for them. “Patients often pass comment that I had made a difficult experience bearable. “That’s the kind of feedback that makes this job really rewarding. I feel privileged to be able to help those who are feeling very vulnerable. “It is important that cancer patients are treated with dignity and respect and have contact numbers for additional help and support to improve their experience.”

To seek advice or help from Lisa call her on 01473 704361.

Story courtesy of the Ipswich Star 3rd April 2013