You Have Cancer:
Those are three of the most frightening words a person can hear. The person will experience the emotional stress of living with a diagnosis of cancer and its treatment, the fear of recurrence, and the distress imposed by living with the day-to-day physical problems of the disease. All of that can create new psychological distress or worsen preexisting conditions.
Patients may experience depression, adjustment disorders and anxiety and also may have post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Family members, especially parents of children with cancer, also may have these conditions.
A cancer diagnosis can bring about feelings of guilt, loss of control, anger, sadness, confusion and fear. Concerns about body image, communication with family members and providers, fear of loss of job and income while in treatment, being under-insured, and lack of family support add to the suffering created by the illness and impact the cancer patient’s health.
Providing support and opportunity for emotional expression can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Individual and group therapy such as support groups provide information on relaxation techniques, suggest ways of solving for common difficulties, help identify supportive family members or friends capable of providing assistance, and give practical strategies for dealing with side effects.
These measures have been found to increase survival time. Cancer is a challenging, life-changing diagnosis. When a person with cancer is able to use assertive communication to get his or her psychological and medical needs met, that increases their ability to self-manage the symptoms, treatment, physical and psychosocial consequences and lifestyle changes they are experiencing. Oncology Social Work Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute By Rhonda Rice, LMSW ACSW AOSxW