Psycho-oncology is the study of psychological, behavioral and social aspects of cancer. Cancer has a great impact on the mental health of a person suffering from it as well as on the family. Psycho-oncology focuses on the psychological reactions of the patient suffering from cancer as well as their families and caregivers.
The impact cancer can have on a patient is much greater than we can even think of.
Cancer impacts the family pattern, creates economic pressures, roles, and responsibilities get altered. Cancer is also a major cause of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. Cancer is not just the disease of a body but it also includes the mind.
Effects of cancer –
On receiving the diagnosis of cancer
- Patient’s reaction – When a person receives the diagnosis of cancer, it can lead to great distress and negative thoughts like “why me?”
- Family’s reaction – Disrupted family functioning; alerted relationships and loss of control are some of the major reactions that family has. Role changes lead to communication problems; it also creates financial stress for the family. There can also be problems between the spouses (physical detachment and emotionally also they are unable to share and express their feelings).
During the treatment
The ability to view cancer as a temporary, short-term problem is extremely important in this process. Patients and families also face burdens of shortened hospital stays with patients returning home with more care needs and the need for more involved home care and monitoring. Family members are therefore likely to take on the role of caregiver.
- Patient’s reaction – Fear of recurrence continues after the initial diagnosis. Recurrence entails different stressors. The realization that treatment has failed can contribute to depression and a feeling of hopelessness. The patients’ sense of hope may have provided the encouragement needed the first time around when a cure was anticipated. The loss of hope may contribute to realizing that it is incurable.
- Family’s reaction – Recurrence may create so much distress that family members and friends will react with detachment because they fear to reinvest in the patient’s treatment when the outcome may be less positive. This particularly may be common when the patient experiences multiple remissions and exacerbations. The patient may wish to have less contact with the family members.