Psycho oncology: the role of the psychologist in cancer

No wonder if you hear the word cancer you get a chill. Surely you know a loved one who is a victim of this disease, or you may even suffer from it or have suffered from it in your own flesh; no one is safe from this disease which destroys lives in its path.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and death rates from this cause are increasing over the years.

This is why it is important to know the tools at our disposal to face this reality. And, among these aids, there is psycho oncology, which I would like to talk about.

    The psychological impact of cancer

    For cancer patients, the disease involves physical, emotional and social difficulties. The high levels of depression, anxiety and anxiety that this condition brings about, make it necessary to recognize the role of psychological and emotional problems in cancer patients and their families.

    Different studies show that between 30 and 50% of people suffer from the disease present psychological alterations likely to be the subject of psychological treatment, the most common are adjustment disorders, anxiety and depression. The patient’s family and primary caregivers also show a high degree of suffering. The role of the family and its support in the face of cancer is of crucial importance for a good adaptation of the patient to the disease.

      What is psycho oncology?

      The branch of psychology responsible for intervention and counseling both for people affected by cancer and their families and caregivers, known as psycho oncology.

      This discipline offers significant benefits to cancer patients and their families: provides emotional support, reduces the impact of illness in the affected person and their environment, it provides capacities to adapt, manipulate and adapt to the disease, helps to understand the disease by facilitating medical compliance and improves communication with the medical team.

      In short, psycho oncology seeks to promote the quality of life of the patient and his family in the different phases of oncological disease.

      Psycho oncology according to the stages of the disease

      The intervention of the psycho oncologist differs depending on the course of the cancer, As the psychological manifestations change depending on the stage of the disease in which the patient is, his symptoms and the treatments received.

      This can occur at different stages throughout the course of the disease.

      1. Diagnostic phase

      The response to receiving the diagnosis usually consists of: after a first moment of shock, In intense emotional responses which include sadness, anger, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, depression, etc. That is why the task of the psychologist is aimed at alleviating the emotional impact that triggers a cancer diagnosis, providing the patient and his family with emotional support and coping strategies to cope with the disease.

      2. Treatment phase

      Cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) are aggressive, painful, annoying and have multiple side effects. Therefore, psychological support, treatment to manage pain and relieve emotional distress they can help the patient to adhere to medical treatment.

      3. Baseline phase

      At this stage when the cancer has calmed down, the intervention of the psycho-oncologist it is based on facilitating the expression of fears and concerns, Both the patient and his family, for the uncertainty and the threat of recurrence of the disease. It is important for the psychologist to consolidate a close therapeutic bond, to cope with emotional disturbances and to provide the psychological tools necessary to be able to gradually return to normal.

      4. Relapse phase

      It is a stage of great impact because it triggers intense emotional reactions (anger, rage, aggressiveness, despair, etc.). The intervention of psycho oncology during this period it consists in approaching and treating depressive and anxious states that can be generated in the patient and his relatives and work to adapt to the new pathological state.

      5. Terminal phase

      Some of the emotions that usually surface at this point are denial, anger, depression, isolation, aggression, and fear of death. To the patient palliative care is providedThat is to say that the recovery of the patient is no longer possible and it is continued that this one receives the best care in his transition until death. To do this, it is necessary to address psychological difficulties, manage pain and physical symptoms, provide social, emotional and spiritual support, and improve control strategies in the terminally ill.

      6. Death

      When death is imminent, the task of accompanying the patient in the process of death and his family in the development of mourning arises, in order to prevent pathological bereavement. The psycho oncologist must address the different emotions that the patient faces in the face of imminent death in order to channel his feelings, guide him to close his pending cases and accept his new reality.

      7. Duel

      Psychological treatment aims to help relatives and close circles faced with the loss of a loved one, accept his absence, work on the emotions and the pain that it generates, in order to be able to adapt to life without the dead person.

      As we have seen, the work of the psycho-oncologist is of crucial importance to reduce the anxiety and depression that present a high number of cancer patients and their families, to accompany them in all phases of the disease to achieve a better fit, and less suffering in this difficult battle with disease.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Almanza M. Holland J. Psychooncology, current state and future prospects. Tower. Inst. Nacional de Cancerologia: Vol. 46 Núm. 3.

        • Die Trill, M. (2003). Psychooncology. Madrid. Ades Edicions.

        • Hernández, M. Cruzado JA and Arana, Z. (2007). Psychological problems in cancer patients: difficulties of detection and referral to the psycho-oncologist. Psychooncology, 4, 179-191.

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