Immunotherapy education programme launched

Aims to educate cancer patients
  • Deborah Condon

A new patient education programme aimed at cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy treatment has been launched.

Immunotherapy is an innovative treatment that helps the body to defend itself against cancer by working with the immune system to detect, fight and destroy cancer cells.

It works by increasing the body's natural defences and activating the immune system to fight cancer cells. These cells are then destroyed or their growth is slowed down so that they do not spread.

Immunotherapy is used to treat different types of cancer and causes less side-effects than other treatments, for example, patients will not lose their hair during treatment.

The Immunotherapy Patient Education Programme was developed by the cancer nurse specialist team at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. It aims to educate patients on how immunotherapy works and support them on their treatment journey.

"Immunotherapy treatment activates your immune system, helping to detect cancer cells, and helps your body to recognise and defeat or halt this disease.

"We found there was a lack of structured education for patients commencing treatment, so we felt an education series would help us explain immunotherapy, support our patients through their cancer journey and improve their overall treatment process. We hope this will become a resource for all immunotherapy patients nationwide," explained Noeleen Sheridan, cancer nurse specialist at the Mater Hospital.

According to medical oncologist at the hospital, Prof Michaela Higgins, this is an ‘exciting treatment option' for many cancer patients.

"While not suitable for all patients, we have seen some great results with immunotherapy and it can provide a good quality of life for patients with advanced cancer. We hope to continue to improve outcomes for patients through research, collaboration and use of newer medications such as immunotherapy," she commented.

This nurse-led education initiative includes a video series featuring patients who have undergone immunotherapy, experts speaking about the treatment process and an information booklet.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, broadcaster, Louise McSharry, explained how information was a great comfort when she was undergoing cancer treatment.

"Having had a very positive experience of receiving cancer treatment in the Mater in 2014 and 2015, I am very happy to support this campaign to educate patients about their immunotherapy programme.

"When I was experiencing cancer, information was comfort. The greater my understanding of my treatment, the safer I felt within it, and I feel confident saying that my family felt the same. This initiative will empower patients to feel strong within their treatment process," she said.

The Immunotherapy Patient Education Programme video series and booklet are available at the Mater Hospital. The video series is also available to watch here. For more information on immunotherapy, please speak to your healthcare professional.

*Pictured at the launch of the programme are broadcaster, Louise McSharry, and cancer nurse specialists, Noeleen Sheridan and Michelle Brady.


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