Thursday, December 20, 2007

Emotional Side of Cancer Patients


When you are told the frightening words, “Your diagnosis is cancer”, a sequence of events occurs, sometimes overwhelming both patient and family. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and the inability to cope are common after hearing the shocking news. Often, patients are so overwhelmed and distressed that they become non-functional and may not hear or comprehend many of the explanations given to them - explanations that could often put their disease in perspective and help them cope better with the diagnosis. Many patients have commented that the emotional aspects of dealing with both having cancer and being treated for it, are one of the most difficult parts of this experience.
Cancer and its treatment pose physical and psychological problems for patients. Depression and anxiety are often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Emotional and adjustment problems could impair patients’ ability to cope with their treatment. The stress of coping with a cancer diagnosis ranges from mild to severe, often depending on the severity of the diagnosis and treatment and the prior mood of the survivor. A third or more of patients report emotional distress (mostly depression and anxiety) during the early months of treatment, and there may be similar levels of distress ongoing into survivorship.
Counseling, group therapy, and good supportive care can help patients and survivors effectively deal with these challenges. In addition, effective medications for depression and anxiety can help reduce distress. In particular, antidepressants can improve energy and mood, breaking the cycle of despair and poor self-esteem that can spiral into a worsening depression. It is important to treat depression vigorously with appropriate psychotherapy and medication, since depression is an independent risk factor for shorter survival time with cancer.

1 comment:

Roger D said...

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