Monday, November 21, 2011

Unsung Heroes

November is another busy month in terms of cancer awareness, as it is both Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and Lung Cancer Awareness Month. But it's also another awareness month that I think is particularly appropriate to recognize during this week of Thanksgiving, and that is National Family Caregivers Month.

Since 1997, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation recognizing family caregivers to raise awareness and increase support for the vital roles these individuals play in society. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 65 million Americans provide care for loved ones with a chronic illness, disability or the frailties of old age. This certainly includes cancer.

I've often spoken of the importance of a support system for cancer patients. While their medical treatment team is obviously important, the support system of family, friends and other loved ones is also essential. It is those caregivers who know the patient most intimately and can provide perspectives and details that we as medical professionals may not be able to.

So as Thanksgiving approaches, and we take time to consider what we have to be thankful for, take a moment to thank the millions of people who make personal sacrifices to care for others. In many ways, they are unsung heroes.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.