Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why Cancer Care needs Psychologists? – A brief note

Medical community has recognized that quality of life is as important as quantity of life. At present, psychological concerns are given increased importance in cancer care if it is compared with the past. Psycho-oncologists have the obligation to increase the human touch in cancer care from the screening to rehabilitation for the patients who are successfully treated and palliative care for patients who go through the end-of-life process.

The work of Psycho-oncologists starts from prevention aspects such as tobacco cessation and change in life style. There are many myths related to cancer. One of them is ‘cancer is synonymous to death and the treatment is very distressing’. Thus to alleviate the myths about cancer and cancer care is another responsibility of Psycho-oncologists.

All patients experience some level of distress associated with diagnosis and treatment of cancer at all stages of disease. However very fewer patients are referred for psycho-social care due to under recognition of patient’s psychological needs by primary oncology team and lack of human resources. Thus to reveal the diagnosis and prognosis for ‘difficult’ patients is one of the key responsibilities for psycho-oncologists.

Cancer affects not only the patients and also the family members to a large extent. The burden of care givers is very huge. So burn-out, stress, depression and anxiety are also very common in care givers. To deal with the distress, grief of the patients and family members is again a responsibility of Psych-oncologists.

In the past two decades, dramatic advances in early detection and treatment options have increased the over all survival rates in patients of all ages with cancer. At the same time, these improved treatment options are also associated with substantial long term side effects: fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression. Some patients develop phobias of needles, hospital and blood or conditioned nausea/vomiting related to chemotherapy. Cognitive impairment associated with chemotherapy (often referred as ‘chemobrain’) has also been described in patients with advanced cancer especially CNS Cancers and brain metastases. When it comes to treatment through oral medications, depression and anxiety are the risk factors for non-compliance. It is a responsibility of Psych-oncologist to make the patients comply with the treatment process and treat the mental health issues.

Last but not the least, the health professionals involved in cancer care go through lot of difficulties to deal with the disease and patients. Job satisfaction of health professionals to work is a key factor to maintain the quality of cancer care. Psycho-oncologists take care of their mental health and preserve their quality of life.

1 comment:

latha vidyaranya said...

you have very well explained what psycho-oncologist's responsibilities are! improved mental health in cancer patients can boost their immunity levels. also help reduce the trauma of undergoing various treatments. the counselling given to the patients can help them gain hope and instill positive thinking pattern in them.
thank you.