Tania Farrow

Picture: David Garrad

Tania Farrow, Chief Officer of Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee and community pharmacist, explains how taking the Cancer Research UK's Talk Cancer training helped her to encourage people to take positive action for their health.

I’m really keen to share how I put training - which gave me the confidence and knowledge to have conversations about cancer and health that could save lives - into practice. I was able to encourage a patient to seek the help they needed - leading to an early diagnosis of bowel cancer, with good chances of successful treatment.   

As a community pharmacist in Suffolk, I was asked to speak with a patient who was concerned about changes in her bowel habits. I used the knowledge gained in Cancer Research UK’s Talk Cancer training to encourage the patient to seek advice from their GP.

Remembering the importance of spotting cancer early, after some questioning I discovered that the patient hadn’t taken part in bowel cancer screening. Despite having received a screening kit earlier in the year, she had not sent a sample as she was afraid of what it might show. During a discussion about her fears and using the information I had learned, I was able to explain how much more successful treatment can be if cancer is diagnosed early, and the importance of getting any abnormal changes in your body checked out sooner rather than later.

I reassured the patient that the best action to take was to speak to her GP, and she was later diagnosed with bowel cancer. As the disease was caught early, the patient was told it had not spread and her treatment was likely to be successful.

Cancer Research UK’s Talk Cancer training gives trainees the knowledge and confidence to talk openly and honestly to people about how they can reduce their risk of cancer, the importance of spotting the signs early and encouraging them to take positive action for their health. I was one of 850 people to take part in a Talk Cancer face-to-face workshop in 2018, attending a workshop tailored specifically to my setting in community pharmacy.

Cancer Research UK health facilitator Donna Reeve with Ipswich pharmacist trained in Talk Cancer. Picture: Mark Hewlett

Cancer Research UK health facilitator Donna Reeve with Ipswich pharmacist trained in Talk Cancer. Picture: Mark Hewlett

Donna Reeve, Cancer Research UK Health Professional Facilitator Manager for the East of England, said: “Research suggested pharmacists wanted to do more, but don’t always feel equipped to talk about cancer or are worried about saying the wrong thing. The majority have never received any kind of cancer awareness training before on how to have conversations as well as what to say.”

“Whether pharmacy staff are giving advice about stop smoking services, buying sunscreen or talking to someone who is concerned about symptoms, Talk Cancer improves their knowledge and confidence to make the most of these conversations and nudge them in the right direction.”

Cancer Research UK’s Talk Cancer workshops are open to anyone who can promote health and well-being as part of a professional or voluntary role. The training is part of the charity’s mission to save more lives from cancer through prevention and early diagnosis. There are different training options available to suit different needs, and a number of fully-funded face-to-face workshops for eligible groups.

Find out more about Talk Cancer training and check your eligibility for a free workshop here.