Psychology and Cancer Care

Psychology is an important risk factor that is often ignored in the cancer journey including the impact and effect of psychology in cancer prevention, occurrence, progress, and treatment. Both, the incidence and prognosis of cancer, are strongly affected by the psychology of an individual.

Psychological stress is believed, though not proven, to influence the development and initiation of cancer. Though, not all those who have stress will necessarily develop cancer, but there is enough evidence to suggest that stress, low mood and depression are definite risk factors for the incidence of cancer.

The psychology around cancer is being extensively studied. But, no one can prove exactly how psychological factors bring about the initiation, or describe the progress and outcome of cancer in the body. Psychological factors include:

  • Mental Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Sorrow
  • Low mood
  • Depression
  • Inability to share
  • Suppression of emotions

Depression and Cancer

There are many psychological risk factors that are responsible for cancer patients to develop depression, these include: poverty, social isolation, negative family experiences or relations, inefficient control of cancer related pain, previous mental or psychiatric disorders, and lack of emotional or social support.

In most cases, cancer leads to depression, which severely impacts the progression of the disease, the treatment outcome and the time to remission and elimination of the disease. According to some studies, prevalence rates of depression among cancer patients can be as high as 38% and 58% for other depression syndromes.

Stress and cancer

People who are already stricken by the disease are often scared, anxious, demotivated, and tend to plunge into depression and hopelessness very easily, which in turn can lead to increased stress. There is no direct link between stress and positive outcome of cancer, but it has been strongly proved, and repeatedly, that a negative mindset towards the disease, treatment and outlook in life has higher chances of negative outcomes. This can be attributed to the fact that people who are overwhelmed with the disease tend to fault on the treatment regime, medicines and other therapy protocols. They also tend to give up easily and lose their battle with cancer.

Before we get to how cancer and psychology are linked, we must understand how psychological stress and physical pressure can affect our bodies. Any form of stress causes the body to release the ‘fight or flight’ hormones –adrenaline and noradrenaline, both of which increase the heart rate, blood pressure and generate strength in the body to escape from a perceived threat. Experiencing chronic stress can impair many essential body functions and cause many metabolic troubles including an impaired immune system. This makes the body susceptible to infections and other illnesses.

Breaking the Psychological Barrier

The first step needs to be eliminating any form of psychological and mental stress factors from our lives. There are many ways to achieve this – speaking with a confidant, having an active social life, pursuing a hobby or seeking help from a therapist. But, the bigger help is needed by people who are cancer patients and are undergoing some form of treatment to fight it. They are more likely to be psychologically impacted and need to learn to cope with the physical and mental pain associated with the disease.

Cancer patients need emotional and social support in their healing journey. This support helps reduce depression levels, anxiety, and treatment related symptoms.

There are many methods to provide psychological support

  • Counselling and talking therapy sessions
  • Stress management sessions
  • Meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques
  • Exercises incorporated by Physiotherapist
  • Social groups
  • Engagement in activities that promote confidence and positivity

As we pledge to be the best in cancer care, we must always remember to evaluate the psychological positivity and strength of the patient as negative thought’s can severely impact the patient’s treatment outcome. We also need to understand that such negative thoughts are common and there is way to deal with them through psychological support and care.

Let’s create the awareness so that no one loses their battle to cancer because their mind wasn’t in a good mood!

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