With medical advancement, the survival of cancer patients has been prolonged, and the fight against cancer has become a protracted battle. During this enduring journey, patients encounter different challenges regarding their emotions and determination to fight against cancer. Not only does psychological well-being affect mental health, but research has also proven that patients’ mental health is correlated with the effectiveness of the treatment. In addition to paying attention to the physical condition of cancer patients, it is also important to take care of the patients and their caregivers’ psychological needs.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a type of treatment that combines the physical and mental elements, helping patients to acknowledge their medical situation without losing their dignity. During the therapy, the patient will learn how to manage pain and insomnia, facing the mood swings caused by the treatment, which can help to reduce anxiety about cancer recurrence. It also allows patients to be more proactive and confident in facing various challenges in life. The therapy is designed to guide the patients to live in the moment, cherish things and people around them and enjoy life once again.
This therapy guides the patients to use their imagination to recall and construct memories or situations that would make them feel relaxed and at ease. It enables them to alleviate stress, physical and mental pain to complete their treatment at ease.
The signals sent by the patients’ body can be reflected with the help of medical instruments. Biofeedback therapy can help patients to learn techniques that can help them to relax, avoiding excessive stress that could reduce treatment effectiveness.
Almost everyone has had difficult experiences in the past, and sometimes these experiences are giving us the strength to face difficulties to overcome hurdles after hurdles. Positive psychotherapy can help patients to explore their uniqueness, potentials, and strengths through summarizing what their past experiences. In doing so, it helps them to strengthen themselves and overcome anxiety and depression caused by cancer treatment.
Being diagnosed with cancer brings plenty of influences on the patient’s life. Existential therapy guides patients to think deeper and re-examine the meaning of life. It helps patients to explore different ways to deal with life in the face of adversity.
In addition to the patient’s mood swings, clinical psychologists will also take care of the mental health of the patient’s family members. Grief counseling helps family members to accommodate the transformation of their loved ones that have been diagnosed with cancer.
The life of the patient and his or her family changes dramatically from the moment that cancer is diagnosed. Some people may feel hopeless; others may feel angry and blame God for choosing them to be the “unlucky ones.” In the face of unfamiliar cancer treatments and all the side effects, some patients may feel helpless and scared. They may even give thought to the idea of giving up. Even when the patient has recovered, he or she may still be worried about the recurrence of cancer from time to time. It is hard for them to escape the shadow of cancer.
Along the journey of fighting against cancer, clinical psychologists will stay with the patients and their families throughout different stages, including diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. They will help them to digest complex information regarding cancer, relieving the psychological stress and emotional fluctuations caused by cancer.
Clinical psychologists will find out the most suitable and scientific treatment methods in consideration of different cancer patients’ psychological conditions. These treatments can help the patient to overcome mental blocks and develop a positive thinking mindset to face cancer. Psychotherapy does not only focus on communication with patients, but it also helps patients to be mentally healthy and able to maintain a better quality of life through innovative and diversified professional therapy.
Over 30% of patients have emotional problems, such as an anxiety disorder, depression, difficulty in adapting, etc.
25% to 69% of patients suffer from insomnia.
The risk of suicide among cancer patients is 1.5 times higher than that of an average person.
Nearly half of cancer patients think that psychological distress is more difficult to deal with than physical condition
Not only do the family members of cancer patients witness their loved ones suffer from cancer, but they also have to act in the role of caregivers and provide emotional support to the patients. They often bear as much psychological pressure as the patients. During the journey of fighting cancer, family members and patients are both of our concerns.
Caregivers must take good care of themselves and be physically healthy before they can take care of cancer patients. If you are ill as a caregiver, you will not be able to take care of the cancer patient, which might lead the patient feeling guilty.
Caregivers should communicate with relatives and friends and take turns to visit and take care of the patient. It is important to make sure the workload is shared and caregivers themselves have enough time to rest.
Body language shows care. Simple eye contact, a pat on the shoulder, small acts such as brushing a patient’s hair or applying lipstick and face cream are all natural and comfortable ways to show care.
Caregivers should listen more and argue less. Even if patients have negative views, caregivers should listen carefully and share their concerns. Being listened to is also a comfort to patients.
Neither caregiver nor patient should neglect their own lives. They should try to maintain their autonomy in life and continue to do what they like as a kind of self-support. Do not always limit the patients by thinking “you are sick, don’t do it,” which can make the patient feel that life is meaningless and slowly lose the determination to fight against cancer.
- (Registered Clinical Psychologist-Mindfulness Teacher)
- Registered Clinical Psychologist, (HKPS, DCP)
- Master of Social Science (Clinical Psychology), The University of Hong Kong
- Foundation Course for Teaching MBCT organized by Oxford Mindfulness Center and Hong Kong Center for Mindfulness
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Facilitation Certificate (Advance Level) The Centre of Mindfulness Studies, Canada
- MYMind Advance Teacher Training (For kids with ADHD / Autism and their parents), organized by The University of Amsterdam and The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Certified Mindful Parenting Instructor (Advance Teacher Training in Mindful Parenting) organized by University of Amsterdam
- Psych.D. (Clin. Psych.), HKU
- MSoc.Sc. Clin. Psych.), HKU
- BSoc.Sc. (Psych.), HKU
- Registered Clinical Psychologist, HKPS
- Associate Fellow, HKPS
- Registered Yoga Teacher, Yoga Alliance
- Cunningham A J, & Watson K. (2004). How psychological therapy may prolong survival in cancer patients: new evidence and a simple theory. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 3(3), 214-29.
- Mehnert A, Bra hler E, Faller H, et al. (2014). Four-week prevalence of mental disorders in patients with cancer across major tumor entities. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 32, 3540-46.
- Savard J, Ivers H, Villa J, Caplette-Gingras A, & Morin C M. (2011). Natural course of insomnia comorbid with cancer: an 18-month longitudinal study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29(26), 3580-3586
- Hem E, Loge JH, Haldorsen T, et al. Suicide risk in cancer patients from 1960 to 1999. J Clin Oncol. 2004;22:4209–4216. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2004.02.052.
- Institute of Medicine. . Cancer care for the whole patient: Meeting psychosocial health needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. ; 2008.