Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Why is peer advocacy support so vital for older people affected by cancer?

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Kathleen Gillett from project partner Dorset Macmillan Advocacy and  I recently presented workshops at Macmillan’s Cancer Voices Conference. During the workshops looking at our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project we had the pleasure of the company of 21 people affected in some way by cancer. Most of them were older people, many diagnosed with cancer.

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We introduced the project, explained about peer advocacy and told everyone where the service is currently available. We also talked about working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and how we’d both like to see a future where every older person affected  by cancer who needs peer advocacy support can get it.

Jo Coulson.  Staffordshire Peer Advocacy Project on left with Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy

Jo Coulson. Staffordshire Peer Advocacy Project on left with Kathleen Gillett of Dorset Macmillan Advocacy

Near the end of the workshops we asked those in attendance about where they thought advocacy support might have been or would be useful in the cancer journey and here are some of the responses:

When given a diagnosis of a short time.

To support person in their decision where to be if not want to go to hospice or hospital.

At diagnosis and contact before the service kicks in.

When I left hospital after surgery.

As someone who has vocal problems, sometimes having someone to speak up for us can be very helpful.

Someone to be with – a friend.

Explain what is happening and treatment.

One to one talk important.

Support after end of treatment – say a couple of months after.

To find out information about treatments.

Getting doctors and hospitals to provide the best available treatment, getting doctors to prescribe the most appropriate drug treatments, having someone to be there during chemotherapy. 

She died so close after her diagnosis there was even more reason for her to have someone outside of the family to perhaps support her!

Since my grandfather’s diagnosis he has had little input. We as his family have been his advocates but it would be helpful if he was able to speak to someone one-to-one so he can have a say.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer there was no advocate to support her and speak about thoughts she probably didn’t want to share with her family.

Finding a local support group.

Help to research alternative surgery.

Signposting to the right advice about benefits and finances.

Support when the patient’s choice is not what the family wants.

There are so many times and places that a peer advocate’s support could be helpful. It’s one of the main reasons we’re proud to be further developing this work. Every peer advocate our delivery partners recruit, train and support leads to even more older people affected by cancer benefiting. Join us in the call to make this service available to every older person affected by cancer who needs it, no matter their circumstances or where they live.


Marie McWilliams, OPAAL


One thought on “Why is peer advocacy support so vital for older people affected by cancer?

  1. Great post, Marie! Was good to see you and Kathleen at the conference, glad the workshops were such a success. Those responses really show how quickly everyone grasped the concept and value of advocacy. Good work!


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