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New research study aims to better support cancer patients with terminal illness

The University of Chester has been awarded funding by Macmillan Cancer Support for a new research study, to develop a psychological support intervention for cancer patients who have been referred into palliative care services.

A team of researchers at the University of Chester and the University of Edinburgh have been awarded a £34,000 grant for the collaborative project, which will be run in partnership with terminal illness charity Marie Curie.

The funding will enable Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) based psychological therapy sessions to be delivered to people with cancer who are transitioning into specialist palliative care services. The shift from curative to palliative treatment can be accompanied by high levels of psychological distress and poor quality of life. The intervention being developed as part of this study is called BEACHeS which stands for Brief Engagement and Acceptance Coaching in Community and Hospice Settings.

Previous research led by the University of Chester has already shown that ACT may help cancer survivors to become more resilient to suffering and psychological distress. This pilot work aims to extend that research to patients receiving palliative care.

ACT is a psychological therapy that aims to help people to get the most out of their lives, whatever their circumstances. As such the research team think this will be a complementary approach to mainstream palliative care. The pilot study began in March 2018 and will run for a year. Participants (patients at Marie Curie Hospice Edinburgh and Marie Curie Hospice Liverpool) will have one-to-one therapy sessions with a psychologist over a six-week period and the researchers will test whether this short intervention has improved their psychological wellbeing. The research team hope that this will lead to a future trial and larger programme of work researching the benefits of ACT for people with cancer and other life-limiting conditions.

Photo: The BEACHeS Study Steering Group (left to right): Sue Millington, Jenny Strachan, David Gillanders, Brooke Swash, Juliet Spiller, Anne Finucane and Nick Hulbert-Williams.

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