By Nicola Handley a specialist workplace illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell 

The role of the cancer specialist nurse 

Following a diagnosis of cancer, one of the first healthcare professionals that a patient  will meet will be a cancer specialist nurse (CNS).

The cancer specialist nurse, together with other healthcare professionals will play a key role in a patient’s pathway and provide invaluable care and support to the patient and their family as they navigate multiple investigations, diagnosis and treatment.

How nurses support patients

It is very difficult to summarise their complex and often challenging roles but some of the support that the CNS offers includes the following:

  • Advice and support following a diagnosis of cancer
  • Assessment of a patient’s needs and signposting to services
  • The provision of information in relation to treatment and guidance to assist in making clinical choices
  • Actively managing a patient’s pathway
  • Liaising with other healthcare professionals to manage treatment and care

The importance of the CNS role

The importance of the role is demonstrated through the fact that one in every two people in the UK will be told that they have cancer at some point in their lives.

In order to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, many cancer nurse specialists have had to focus on working together and maximising NHS resources to ensure those who were clinically urgent received the treatment and care needed.

Earlier this year, the government announced the start of a new 10 year Cancer Plan for England which will end in 2032.  The plan includes raising awareness of various cancer types and causes, new goals and targets to reduce waiting times for diagnosis and treatment as well as much needed investment in cancer services and care. It is expected that the cancer nurse specialist will play a pivotal role in delivering many of the aims of the plans.

In my role as a specialist mesothelioma solicitor, I frequently witness first hand through my clients the invaluable care and support that the cancer nurse specialist provides.  They help patients with a wide range of queries and often this is for a significant period of time, not just months but years.

Patients frequently tell me how important their lung cancer nurse specialist is to them and the support that they provide.  They also comment on the fact that a lung cancer nurse specialist improves their lives following a cancer diagnosis.

National Cancer Nurse Specialist Day 

Celebrating the importance of the cancer nurse specialist on this day and thanking all of them for their hard work, outstanding care, professionalism and complete dedication are feelings shared by me and many of my clients.

When speaking to Maria Guerin, (pictured below), I asked her to share with me how she and colleagues feel about their role as lung cancer nurse specialists. 

She commented: "I have been a cancer clinical nurse specialist for over 25 years - to be in a position of providing specialist care whilst enabling individualised self-care.  

"To be able to empower and promote independence thus gaining an improved quality of life for people affected by a cancer diagnosis is a privilege. A relative once told me that having the diagnosis and subsequent treatments was "like being in a dark tunnel with no way out....the CNS was our torch, our guide, and our light ….our way out." 

Maria has also kindly shared this video in which a carer provides her perspective on the importance of the role of the cancer nurse specialist.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by mesothelioma and other diseases at our website