Therapists’ work is essential for helping us reconnect with our bodiesMar 08, 2022
We know that catching cancer early is one of the best ways to increase the chances of survival, but being able to do that hinges on as much awareness of symptoms as possible and having the confidence to tell our doctors when something doesn’t feel quite right. It’s often said that you know your body best, and we have all heard stories of people who have been to the doctor with no discernible symptoms, ultimately leading to a diagnosis.
As therapists, we are not here to tell someone that something is wrong with their health and we’re certainly not here to diagnose cancer - we are not qualified for that. However, we can help people to reconnect with their bodies and to get a better sense of what ‘normal’ feels like for them, so that if they do think something is wrong, they feel better able to ask for help as early as possible.
The data around early diagnosis
It makes perfect sense that early cancer diagnosis provides a significant advantage in treating cancer successfully, but it’s also helpful to set a few figures against that assumption. Cancer Research UK says:
Early diagnosis of bowel cancer
In England, more than nine in 10 bowel cancer patients survive the disease for five years or more if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
Early diagnosis of breast cancer
Almost all women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least five years.
Early diagnosis of lung cancer
Almost nine in 10 of lung cancer patients will survive their disease for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIRH) is also sufficiently invested in the merits of early diagnosis that they have set out plans to improve knowledge and research with the ambition that, “by 2028, 75% of people with cancer will be diagnosed at an early stage (up from just over 50%)”.
Brits don’t feel confident in cancer knowledge
Of course, lots of cancers have nebulous symptoms such as feeling tired for no reason or having a cough that doesn’t go away. Many of us attribute these signs to other things like stress, IBS, or the general wear and tear of daily life. As a result we are not diagnosed until the disease has already progressed.
Even so, research that came out early this year indicates that many Brits don’t feel confident about their knowledge of cancer symptoms. A few key points from a survey conducted by specialist lawyers, Bolt Burdon Kemp included:
- 88% of Brits were unable to identify symptoms linked with cancer
- Six in 10 (59%) can’t identify the body parts associated with major cancers
- More than half of Brits don't have any knowledge of the deadliest cancers: pancreatic and oesophageal cancer
- 80% of Brits know about breast cancer but only 46% are confident of their knowledge
How can spa therapists help?
There’s an enormous amount of commentary, information, data and opinion around pointing to the connection between emotional and physical wellbeing and the importance of taking care of our health. Some of that is about balancing daily stresses, some of it is about healthy eating, some of it is about talking therapies, exercise, mindfulness and so forth. There are a lot of things that need to come into balance when we talk about health.
As spa therapists, we are acutely aware of how interconnected wellbeing is and how important the power of touch can be to our clients. Many of us feel completely disconnected from our bodies for large amounts of the time. We live so much in our heads, busily typing away at computers, worrying about financial stresses, the daily grind, whether our children are happy at school etc., that we become disconnected.
One of the most basic and powerful things that touch therapies can do is help to bring us back into the moment and help us connect with our bodies. It’s like checking in, regaining an awareness from our head to our toes, and it can simply help us to feel well. In a general sense, feeling well is always good, but it’s also a powerful tool for helping us to be aware of when something isn’t quite right. So many of us don’t know what feeling ‘well’ feels like, so it becomes much harder to get a sense of when something is wrong.
Of course, touch therapies are not going to directly correlate to early cancer diagnosis. That would be a grossly misleading thing to say. However, helping people to know what their normal feels like, or even better, what feeling good feels like, shouldn’t be underestimated or undervalued. If we know our bodies, then we can start to be much more cognisant of what they need, helping us to have a better quality of life. Therapists have an important role in helping us to achieve that.
Therapists can help bring their clients to the present and connect them with their bodies, prior to and following a diagnosis, if they have had the specialist training required to gain the insurance. Helping people to recognise themselves during challenging times is an invaluable service.
If you would like to find out about Jennifer Young’s training in oncology touch treatments and cancer awareness, follow the link below or contact us with any queries.