“I have been working as a general practice nurse for the last 11 years. When I first qualified as a nurse I worked in oncology and saw the pain cancer brings to an individual and their loved ones.

After attending a couple of international cancer conferences I became aware of the growing interest and importance of health promotion in cancer prevention. As a general practice nurse I know that many chronic diseases, including a number of cancers, have the potential to be prevented by people living healthier lives. This will not only reduce the number of people developing devastating conditions but will also reduce financial burdens on an overstretched NHS.”

Getting involved in cancer prevention

“With this interest in my work I came across World Cancer Research Fund – a charity focused on cancer prevention through diet, weight and physical activity. I got involved with them by becoming a reviewer for ‘Informed’. This has helped me understand to what extent a healthy lifestyle can prevent cancer.

What many people don’t realise is that, after not smoking, being a healthy weight is actually the most important thing a person can do to reduce their cancer risk. A third of the most common cancers could be prevented if people chose to have a healthy diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy body weight – that’s an incredible 80,000 less people developing cancer each year in the UK.”

How I start a conversation with my patients

“Health professionals play an important role in reaching out to people and there are opportunities that arise to talk to people about improving their lifestyles. A crucial contact point is when carrying out the basic health measures – which I include as part of most consultations.

We all know how time is a constraint (especially in a busy surgery), but I believe it’s about starting up those important conversations and signposting people to resources that are relevant and helpful. It’s also important to identify and talk through the relevant basic health measure that they can improve. Most people do welcome the discussion and many of my patients have made significant changes and benefited health-wise as a result.”

A short conversation about healthy lifestyles should:

  1. Take from 30 seconds to 3 minutes
  2. Follow a simple structure
  3. Be supportive
  4. Be encouraging
  5. Provide information – including signposting to other services when appropriate