More people are surviving cancer than ever. As such, more attention is dedicated to the quality of life and long-term challenges of cancer patients and survivors. While some of these problems are medical, others can be emotional or social challenges. Psychological challenges include feelings of fear, anger, restlessness, stress, despair and uncertainty. Unfortunately, some patients may find that their psychological distress is more persistent and intense than others.
Psychological challenges take on paramount importance in oncology settings, beginning from the communication of the diagnosis, to treatment, to the management of the palliative phase. When diagnosed with cancer, about a third of patients suffer from psychological distress or other significant mental health conditions (Singer, Ehrensperger, Briest et al., 2013; Singer, Das-Munshi & Brahler & 2010; Vehling, Koch, Ladehoff et al., 2012). Unsurprisingly, cancer does not only result in changes in the cancer patient individually. Psychological changes amongst family and caregivers are highly prevalent.
It is well established that adverse mental health effects are correlated to poorer cancer treatment outcomes (Cunningham & Watson, 2004). We strive to empower all to live well, including any emotional and social challenges that you and your family networks might be facing.
Studies have found that:
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
Clinical Psychology and Cancer Rehabilitation
Everyone’s experience of and response to cancer is unique. Typical reactions to cancer include anxiety, depression, shock, fear of cancer recurrence and progression, chronic pain, sleep problems, as well as issues around fertility, body disfigurement and sexual functioning.
Unfortunately, a third of cancer survivors experience more intense and persistent symptoms during and after cancer treatment. People in this situation may benefit from working with a clinical psychologist to get unstuck and back on track. Clinical psychologists are professionals who can support people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, as well as those who are receiving or have completed treatment. Clinical psychologists also provide support to patients’ family members and caregivers.
Our clinical psychology team is specialised in applying psychological therapies and interventions tailored to your needs. They can help you better understand and manage your troubling difficulties, thoughts and behaviour.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
Practicing Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy can help you become more aware of your patterns of thought and gain increased insights into your own emotions. Mindfulness can guide you to get back in touch with the present and your everyday activities, rather than getting stuck in the past memories or worries about the future.
Guided Imagery Therapy
In Guided Imagery Therapy, you will be shown soothing images, videos and sounds, where you will be guided into a state of deep relaxation. This therapy approach can help ease stress and anxiety levels.
In Biofeedback Therapy, sensors are attached to you to pick up physiological changes in your body. These changes are also displayed to you. The idea of Biotherapy Therapy is that it can facilitate you to gain greater awareness and control of your mind, so as to control the way your body functions. Biofeedback Therapy has been shown to help people to reduce the severity and occurrence of various treatment related side effects, including insomnia and chronic pain.
Positive Psychology guides you to develop your personal strengths and virtues. The aim is to cultivate positive feelings, thoughts and behaviours, all of which shall improve your overall well-being.
Being a caregiver isn’t always easy. Yet, here you are, taking on board one of the most fundamental roles in your loved one’s journey. While you are supporting their journey, we are here to support yours too. You can have the guidance you need to help the ones you love. Here are some tips to help you as a caregiver.
Be mindful of your own health
To care for someone with cancer as well as coping with so many responsibilities, you must first take good care of yourself too. Eat well and get enough sleep.
Spread the workload: do what you want, admit what you can’t
No one can do everything. Caregivers can take turns to look after your loved one. This can help make sure everyone on board has time to take breaks and rest. It might also be useful to break big problems or tasks into smaller ones to make them easier to manage. For example, don’t try to clean the whole apartment at one time, do a room a day or divide the workload amongst family members.
Just listen, and think before you speak
Listen and allow your loved one to express fears and concerns about what is going on, as well as what might happen. Choose your words carefully to help show your support without being dismissive or avoiding certain topics.
Show support without words
Your body and facial expressions can also convey your act of care and support. Think about keeping eye contact, helping to reapply lip balm and skin lotion, combing your loved one’s hair for example.
Help them resume their activities of daily living
Respect your loved one too. Help them live as normally as possible. Help them prioritise which activities they enjoy the most and are capable of doing.
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.