by Daire Bonnar, Donegal Daily

A young Clonmany student who underwent frightening cancer tests says more must be done to help people cope with the mental anguish of having a family history of cancer.

Diana Cooke was recently awarded the social, nursing, and allied health sciences summer studentships by the Irish Cancer Society.

The studentship has allowed Diana to investigate the impact of social supports, anxiety, and depression on quality of life and coping mechanisms in individuals with hereditary cancer predispositions (which was a funded project under this award).

Diana, 23, from Clonmany, previously attended Carndonagh Community School and currently is studying psychology at the University of Galway (previously NUIG).

She had additional help with this project from other Irish organisations such as Lynch Syndrome Ireland and professors and researchers at her University.

Under the supervision of Ms Nikolett Warner and Professor AnnMarie Groarke, she investigated the impact of social support, anxiety, and depression on quality of life and coping mechanisms in individuals identified with having a hereditary cancer condition.

Hereditary cancer conditions are certain conditions that make it more likely that someone will get cancer in their lifetime. These conditions are genetic, meaning that they can be passed on from parents to their children.

It is an important study to Diana, who like many others, has had cancer have a significant impact in her life.

She recently underwent investigation for cancer, describing the process as ‘long, extremely frightening, and mentally draining’ and she says she was provided no guidance on maintaining her mental health from medical professionals.

Diana said on her study: “There is a lack of research on this demographic despite many people reporting feelings of anxiety and depression, therefore it is an extremely important topic that needs more research.

“With predicted increases in those identified and a lack of readily available national support services, it is important to find ways to reduce these negative feelings.

“We wanted to find if communication within families, support from friends and the workplace would improve quality of life and reduce levels of anxiety and depression for people with these conditions.

“Completing this project has been extremely fulfilling, and I am extremely grateful for the experience that the Irish Cancer Society has provided me.

“We hope the findings from this study will highlight the need for government investment in counselling services and promote and highlight the importance of community support groups that encourage communication.”