Cancer patients now have access to evidence-based information about how their lifestyle and other choices can affect both quality of life and outcomes after diagnosis, thanks to a new online service developed in the UK.
The service, developed by Curve.life, is the end result of a major collaboration between leading oncologists, exercise and well-being experts, nutritionists and patients. Content on the site includes the latest scientific evidence, put in easy to understand terms, about how patients can empower themselves after diagnosis.
There is particular emphasis on how exercise, diet and mental health can improve quality of life, reduce the risk of recurrence or, in some cases, extend life expectancy.
The website features a course of specially commissioned animated videos outlining measures cancer patients can take to help try to improve their position alongside conventional treatment – advice usually not given by specialists.
Following diagnosis, many patients and their families turn to ‘Dr Google’ in an attempt to seek further information on what more can be done to improve their position. Resorting to the internet can be overwhelming, negative and, in some cases, result in worse outcomes if conventional treatment is shunned in favour of alternatives, or if patients try experimental therapies that are dangerous.
Curve seeks to address this knowledge gap and encourages patients to take an active role in their treatment while working collaboratively with doctors during their treatment.
Placing physical exercise and diet as potential major influencers on outcomes for cancer patients, the service is the first of its kind to provide an online destination for patients to help them not only feel better but also live longer, whatever the prognosis.
For example, exercise has repeatedly been shown in observational studies to reduce rates of recurrence, improve well-being and significantly reduce treatment side effects, yet it is not recommended as a matter of course in cancer treatments or as part of the accepted NHS ‘pathway’.
The online videos, designed to help and empower cancer patients, are hosted and voiced by the Scottish born comic and former host of ‘The Late, Late Show’, Craig Ferguson who donated his involvement fee to fund further Curve.life research.
The service is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jed Coleman, who founded Curve.life after trying to help his father deal with metastatic cancer and quickly realising that there were many things his father could do alongside his medical team to help himself.
Jed Coleman commented: ‘There is substantial evidence in favour of exercise and improved outcomes in treating chronic illnesses and cancers. Yet frustratingly it’s still not standard practice to recommend exercise for cancer patients, let alone help them actually exercise or even make it part of the standard of care.
‘It’s often dismissed and not even touched upon as a legitimate form of treatment that can begin on diagnosis. The reason for the reluctance to push exercise among many health professionals is that they say more evidence is needed which we believe perfectly highlights the point that patients need to think for themselves.
‘Any rational cancer patient reviewing the current evidence on exercise would conclude that they ought to be exercising because it will not only make them feel better but will probably also make them live longer too. This can make all the difference to patients with cancer who are being told that more evidence is needed before it can be said with certainty that exercise will definitely help. Patients, who don’t have the luxury of time, don’t require certainty – they require reasonable evidence that exercise can help and the evidence supports this conclusion.’
Dr Jonathan Krell, an expert advisor to Curve, notes a good support network is key when dealing with cancer: “Evidence shows that those with poor social ties fare much worse overall, and this is related not just to cancer but all chronic diseases. This is what we are trying to achieve with Curve, encouraging self-help, personal research and insight and the sharing of information that might be helpful to people on their own cancer journeys.’
Jed Coleman added: ‘Curve’s sole aim is to help cancer patients do better whatever their prognosis. Doing better means beating the average outcome by a long way. We want to encourage patients to take an active role in their treatment and work collaboratively with their doctors as complementing treatment programmes with lifestyle and other interventions can help improve quality of life and outcomes. This is, in our view, the best way that patients can maximise their chances of beating average cancer survival rates by a long way.
‘The bedrock of cancer self-help is diet, exercise and stress management, which evidence shows all have a significant role to play and can help. They are also all factors within easy reach of all patients. Curve helps fulfil a key aim of the NHS which is to activate patients to help themselves and better manage chronic conditions such as cancer. It’s not just in prevention that patients have a key role to play – after diagnosis it’s just as important.’