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According to Cancer Council SA-led research, owning a pet may support positive mental health in cancer survivors. The study, which heard from 160 Australian cancer survivors, found that living with pets was associated with a higher mental health score. More than half (55.6 per cent) of those surveyed were pet owners, with two thirds of cancer survivors having pets by their side throughout their cancer treatment. Those with pets reported an overall increased positive mental health score.

Researcher Dr Joshua Trigg said the research suggests just how important pets are in supporting positive mental health, particularly for those going through cancer treatment.

“Pet ownership can help support positive emotions in cancer survivors, a key factor in positive mental health outcomes,” he said.

One quarter (27.8 per cent) of cancer survivors surveyed also reported that COVID-19 negatively impacted their activities and relationships to others. Dr Trigg said pets can also play an important support role during periods of isolation due to COVID-19.

ABC Broadcaster Julie McCrossin AM was diagnosed with stage 4 oropharyngeal cancer in 2013. Throughout her grueling recovery, her dog Bruno was a constant support by her side.

“I was very unwell. For the first time in my life, I had clinical depression. I would still be in bed at 11am – as someone who has worked all my life, it was completely out of character,” Julie said.

Sensing that she needed something to lift her spirits, Julie’s partner Melissa persuaded her to bring home a small Cavoodle puppy they named Bruno.

“We’re inseparable—Bruno’s never left my side. When you’re alone, you’re unwell and you’re emotionally bereft, a little warm mammal for physical company is so important,” Julie said.

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be challenging, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you, a family member or loved is impacted by cancer and needs information and support you can contact our Cancer Council SA Nurses on 13 11 20. They can help answer your questions, provide information and point you in the direction of additional resources and support. 

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