Importance of addressing psychological issues in cancer patients and their families

Cancer is a complicated and challenging condition that affects individuals, their relatives, and their caregivers. A cancer diagnosis can have a significant psychological impact since it can change a patient’s feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and interpersonal connections. Cancer patients frequently struggle with various psychological disorders, including body image problems, anxiety, sadness, and existential worries.

Oncology is a medical specialty that focuses on the detection and management of cancer. Onco-psychology is a specific branch of psychology that aims to meet the psychological needs of cancer patients and their families. It is a multidisciplinary field that integrates social work, oncology, and psychology expertise.

“Onco-psychology aims to enhance patients’ quality of life, foster well-being, and assist patients and their families in coping with the psychological effects of cancer,” explains Dr. Sandeep Nayak, Founder and Chief Surgeon at MACS Clinic. MACS Clinic is a premier cancer treatment clinic in Bangalore.

Psychological Issues in Cancer Patients

Cancer is a distressing physical and psychological ordeal. Many patients deal with a variety of psychological problems throughout their cancer journey that can impair their quality of life and general well-being.

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The following are some typical psychological problems that cancer patients may experience:

  • Anxiety: Cancer patients may feel anxious about their diagnosis, course of therapy, and outcome. They can be concerned about the future, the potential for a recurrence, or how cancer will affect their relationships and regular lives.
  • Depression: The physical and psychological effects of cancer can cause patients to experience depression. The body’s discomfort, fatigue, and inability to participate in activities they love can significantly impact their positive spirit. Additionally, the thought that they may not be around long enough to witness important events of their loved ones can be particularly difficult to imagine.
  • Social isolation: The stigma associated with illness and the physical and psychological burden of therapy may cause cancer patients to feel isolated from others.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Due to the agonizing nature of the cancer journey, cancer patients may develop PTSD symptoms, including flashbacks, lack of joy, feeling defensive, avoidance of other people, and hyperarousal.
  • Thanatophobia (fear of death): Cancer patients may experience fear of death, which may be influenced by their prognostic uncertainty, fear of pain or suffering, or spiritual or philosophical convictions.
  • Body image issues: Cancer therapy can result in physical changes that can affect a patient’s perception of their bodies, causing feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, or shame.
  • Relationship problems: Anxiety, depression, and other emotional and physical discomforts can affect relationships and lead to tension or disagreement with friends, family members, or romantic partners.

“Researches have shown that stress hormones may change how some neutrophils behave, which could result in reawakening dormant cancer cells. Neutrophils are a specific kind of white blood cell crucial to the immune system and help the body combat infection,” advises Laparoscopic Onco-Surgeon Dr. Sandeep Nayak. “It is crucial to support and treat these psychological problems for cancer patients because they can impact their quality of life,”

Psychological Issues in Family Members and Caregivers

Providing care for a loved one with cancer can be an emotionally and physically taxing experience. As a result, family members and carers are also frequently at risk of experiencing psychological problems, such as:

  • Depression: Caring for a loved one with cancer can be demanding and upsetting. It is typical for family members and carers to experience symptoms like sorrow, helplessness, and lack of zest for life.
  • Anxiety: Concerns about the future, fear of losing a loved one, or uncertainty surrounding the cancer diagnosis can all cause anxiety in family members and carers.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A cancer diagnosis and treatment process can be traumatic for family members and caregivers. They may experience PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts regarding their interactions.
  • Fatigue: Family members and carers providing care for a cancer patient may experience burnout and experience exhaustion on a physical and emotional level, negativity, and a diminished sense of personal achievement.
  • The burden of responsibilities: Family members and carers may feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities, including financial pressure, disruptions to their professional and personal lives, and the physical challenges of looking after a loved one.

“Taking care of the mental health of family members and caregivers is also crucial, and they should make it a priority to seek help whenever necessary,” cautions Robotic surgery specialist Dr. Sandeep Nayak. “They can seek professional assistance, connect with support groups, or engage in self-care practices like meditation, exercise, or spending time with loved ones to promote their well-being.”

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Coping Strategies and Interventions

Cancer patients and their loved ones may find it difficult to deal with the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. The following coping mechanisms and interventions can aid individuals in navigating through this trying time:

  • Seek support from family and friends, speak with a therapist, and join support groups to share your experiences and for guidance.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Improve your physical health and self-esteem by engaging in regular physical activities.
  • Follow a balanced diet to help maintain a healthy weight, enhance your immune system and improve overall well-being.
  • Express your concerns with your healthcare providers to better understand your condition and the treatment process.
  • Distract your mind from negativity by doing things that relax you, listening to pleasant music, reading books, watching light-hearted movies, etc.
  • Support for carers, such as counseling, respite care, or carer support groups, may also be helpful.

The role of Onco-Psychology

At MACS Clinic, we understand that Onco-Psychology is a crucial part of cancer care that attends to the psychological and emotional concerns of patients, their families, and caregivers. Our psychologists, oncologists and other medical professionals collaborate closely to ensure that cancer patients receive comprehensive care. They also work with local organizations and support groups to improve patients’ coping mechanisms and social support.

Psychological evaluation, psychotherapy, supportive counseling, and behavioral therapies are a few Onco-Psychology options available at our facility. Our highly-skilled team is passionate about providing patient-centered, holistic care that considers their physical, emotional, and psychological health by incorporating psychological therapy into cancer treatment.

Under the expertise and guidance of Dr. Sandeep Nayak, our highly-skilled medical specialists are dedicated to employing cutting-edge technology to provide the best cancer treatment in Bangalore.