Psycho-oncology and Cancer



The role of Psychology in Cancer

Psychology has an important role in changing cancer landscape. One of the questions addressed with a psychologist is “How can people who have cancer learn to cope with emotional distress?” and to better understand the impact of cancer on those who have cancer and their families and explore and treat the effects that a diagnosis of cancer can have on mental health and well being.

Importance of Diagnostic

Every phase of cancer trajectory may be associated with multiple and often unpredictable stressors. The psychological response to these stressors varies on the spectrum that ranges from normative emotional distress to severe psychological symptoms that meet the diagnostic thresholds for psychiatric disorders, such as major depression or anxiety disorder.

Emotional distress in the context of cancer may include a diverse range of feelings, including hopelessness, dependency, loss of control, uncertainty, worries about the future, concerns about being a burden to others, and loss of dignity. There feelings are all too common for individuals living with cancer; in fact, 20%-50% of patients with cancer will experience substantial distress at some point during their disease trajectory. Untreated elevated emotional distress does not only impose a psychological burden but is also is associated with poorer quality of life, prolonged hospital stays, and increased physical symptoms such as pain.

Therefore, identification and management of any form of emotional distress are important aspects of quality cancer care.

Psychotherapy Treatment

A diagnosis of cancer challenges patients’ and families’ emotional, cognitive and interpersonal domains of functioning. As a result, comprehensive and integrated oncology care includes careful and ongoing consideration of patients’ overall coping skills and their existential and psycho-spiritual well-being.

Psychological interventions in cancer care can be conceptualised as a continuum, along which treatments are differentiated on the basis of structure, frequency, and depth.

In cancer patients, various interventions, including supportive psychoeducation, relaxation techniques, mind-body approaches such as mindfulness-based therapy, and several forms of individual and family therapies have been shown to result in distress reduction, improved coping and better functioning.

Life Clinic Cancer Care Plan

Here at Life Clinic, cancer patients will be assessed from a biopsychosocial perspective that allows individual and personally relevant interventions to be implemented that address both the psychological symptoms and the disease related factors. A thoughtful exploration of patients’ understanding of their illness and prognosis, experience of cancer and physical symptoms, concurrent stressors, culture, belief system, and personal relationships help to develop an individual and comprehensive treatment plan.

Holland, J. C. (Ed.). (2010). Psycho-oncology. Oxford University Press.

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