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The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research transforming health outcomes for the better

A new digital support program helping cancer survivors overcome their fears and anxiety must adapt so it can meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse groups in our community too.

The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research has more than 40 research groups and works in partnerships with universities, hospitals, and our local healthcare community, working to radically transform health outcomes for the better – creating thriving communities, locally and globally.

As part of their Cancer research stream, the Psycho-Oncology Research Group, led by Prof Afaf Girgis AM, undertakes world-leading research that has highlighted significant levels of distress and unmet needs experienced by cancer patients; even higher levels of anxiety experienced by caregivers; and the significant financial burden of cancer. 

These physical and psychological impacts often continue long after treatment has finished, including potentially debilitating fear of cancer recurrence that interferes with daily life. 

Fear of cancer recurrence casts a long shadow over the lives of up to three quarters of cancer survivors, causing psychological distress and poorer quality of life: “I think of death, suffering and of not being there for my kids, not seeing them get married and all of these milestones…I think about not being able to enjoy my retirement if I go too soon.” 

Effective face-to-face treatments are only available to a tiny minority of cancer survivors, leaving hundreds of thousands of cancer survivors struggling with their fears. 

Our world-leading fear of cancer recurrence and digital health experts developed iConquerFear, a digital adaptation of a highly effective face-to-face treatment. 

Survivors “like the fact that they could do it by themselves in their own time in their own home when they felt ready to do it, rather than …. more appointments with more professionals.” 

Survivors of non-English speaking backgrounds report significantly higher unmet needs for managing fear of cancer recurrence than their Anglo-Australian counterparts. 

While iConquerFear overcomes many barriers - distance from healthcare providers, stigma around seeing a mental health professional - culture/language remains a significant barrier and the next critical step in the development of the program is culturally appropriate adaptations of iConquerFear in different languages.