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The rise of cancer rates and why we mustn’t dismiss an integrative approach to health and wellbeing

One upon a time it was said that one in three people will get cancer at some point in their lifetime. However, last year the statistics were updated to show that approximately one in every two people (50%) of us will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. 

With the updated statistics, knowledge and way we approach health, most oncologists and forward thinking medical professionals accept that there’s a need for an integrative approach to supporting cancer patients as well as preventing cancer, taking holistic wellbeing into account as well as medical treatment.

Cancer and Covid-19

Adding to this, last month the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment began to surface. Figures estimate that over two million people in the UK are waiting for screening, tests and treatments since lockdown began. 

Through a combination of fewer tests, fewer people seeking medical attention for symptoms, and a fall in the number of surgeries being carried out to treat cancers, cancer treatment has been badly impacted by the global health crisis, with the long-term effects yet to be fully understood.  

Delving a little deeper

Though the figures are frightening, delve a little deeper and there’s more to learn. Different organisations have slightly varying figures, but a significant percentage of cancer cases and deaths are believed to be preventable by a change of lifestyle and more healthy behaviours. Top of the list are addressing tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. For example, obesity is the UK’s biggest cause of cancer after smoking, believed to cause more than one in 20 cancer cases in the UK.

The WHO states that 30% of cancer deaths could be avoided globally, while Cancer Research UK estimates that around 38% of cancer cases are preventable in the UK. In addition, the rate of survival is improving; cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years. There is also good reason to believe that healthy lifestyle changes could also have an impact on long term survival rates.

Of course, it is important to remember that this information does not cast blame on anyone who has or has had cancer. It is simply an indication that we are learning more and more about how to help prevent cancers, treat them and live beyond them. We are all learning, and increasingly the value of sharing that information and making it possible for us all to embrace in the way we live and work is something we can do collectively in lots of ways, both large and small.

An integrative approach to health and wellbeing

What we are finding is that an integrative approach and the role of health and wellbeing opportunities, understanding, education and facilitation is multifaceted. Not only is it important in the prevention, patient support and patient recovery from different cancers, but also other health and wellbeing concerns in the modern world. From mental health to obesity, diabetes to heart disease, the opportunities to make wellbeing a more integrated part of everyday life are vast.

For spa therapists, the history between spas and cancer support has been a challenging one. If you have been following the journey, you will know that historically therapists were prevented from treating anyone with cancer. Thanks to the ongoing work of individuals like Abi Selby, Sue Harmsworth, Jennifer Young and Amanda Winwood, that has now changed. Therapists, who are fundamentally caring by nature, drawn to a career of compassionate support, are able to provide physical and thereby often emotional support through the healing power of touch. However, even before a cancer diagnosis, spa treatments enable the individual to feel back in touch with their bodies, which in turn can help to identify when something isn’t quite right.

Spas are clearly not the answer to cancer. However, they can play an important role in our health and wellbeing. As places of wellbeing and knowledge, they can provide a positive environment in which we can start enjoying and addressing our lifestyles and inspire or help us to make healthy and informed choices about our everyday, in order to lead healthy, happy lives. Equally, and perhaps at this point, most fundamentally, when you are going through a hard time with mental or physical health, spas can be there to offer you the nurturing and self-care you need to navigate another day as well.


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