Advancement in medical technology has extended survival in many cancer patients, and the battle against the illness is now a prolonged war during which patients will face challenges that test their emotional mettle and willpower. From the moment of diagnosis, patients and their family members must cope with many sudden changes that may bring about despair and anger in the family. Some patients will feel helpless and distressed when suffering from side-effects brought about by treatment. Also fear of recurrence is common among patients and sometimes it seems almost impossible to emerge from the shadow of cancer.
Also the emotional and physical pressure on family members is huge as they take up caregiving roles while witnessing the suffering of their loved ones.
In fact, stress could lead to mental health issues. Studies have shown that mental health of cancer patients is directly connected to treatment outcome. Improving patients’ mental health as well as addressing the psychological needs of caregivers are as important as monitoring the tumor in the fight against cancer.
Over 30 per cent of patients have shown symptoms of emotional distress such as anxiety, depression and adaption difficulties
About 25 to 69 per cent of patients have suffered from insomnia
The risk of committing suicide among cancer patients is 1.5 times higher than healthy persons
Psychological distress is almost as unbearable as the physical illness, according to almost 50 per cent of cancer patients
Helping Patients to Fight Cancer Positively
Clinical psychologists can support cancer patients and their family members through psychotherapy, helping them to alleviate stress as well as addressing their psychological concerns while fighting cancer positively.
Clinical psychologist will offer patients psychotherapies that best suit their needs after assessing their mental condition. The objective is to remove patients’ worries and help them develop a positive attitude so that they can face the illness squarely and positively.
Mindfulness is a therapy for the body and soul that helps patients to remove recurring worries and to distinguish between thought and reality. It is particularly effective in helping patients with negative emotions to rebuild their life and confidence.
Guided Imagery Therapy
Patients will be guided to imagine soothing scenes so as to help them relax during cancer treatment.
Sensors will be attached to a patient’s body to measure sign of stress. This helps patients to gain greater awareness of many physiological functions and can prevent them from being over-stressed.
Discovering and developing one’s strengths and potential, positive psychology helps cancer patients and their family members to build up personal resilience and boost their capacity to overcome the anxiety and fear of recurrence.
Take good care of yourself
You must take care of yourself to maintain good heath to take care of the patient. Falling ill does nobody any good and will only make the patient feel guilty.
Spread the workload
Take turns to take care and visit the patient to keep the latter company and to ensure everyone has sufficient rest time.
Listen more and argue less. Do not refute or make criticism of the patient’s negative views; listen attentively to share his or her worries instead.
Use body language
Use body language, such as making eye contact to encourage, giving patients a pat on the shoulder, combing their hair and applying lip balm or skin lotion to show concern naturally.
Have fun and relax
Don’t let life to be constrained by illness and allow patients to do things they normally enjoy. This is to give life meaning and to boost patients’ morale.
B.Soc.Sc. (Psychology), The University of Hong Kong
M.Soc.Sc. (Clinical Psychology), The University of Hong Kong
Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psych.D.), The University of Hong Kong
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- 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.