People diagnosed with cancer face a challenging treatment process, where psychotherapy support has crucial importance. Disease course is unique for each patient and it is of prime importance to understand the process of each patient and make him/her feel supported and not alone.
What is the Expected Psychological Process in Cancer Treatment?
Cancer treatment is a challenging process. During the diagnosis and treatment process, both physical and mental symptoms appear. Cancer diagnosis can make a person feel anxious, scared, or depressed. Knowing the influence of cancer on mental health can help a person get the support they need. Various causes such as uncertainties in the treatment process, pain and fatigue, the thought of the effects of this process on one’s family or other loved ones and the risk of recurrence may result in fear and anxiety in people. Patients diagnosed with cancer may also suffer from mental problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, chronic fatigue, addiction, sleep disorders and introversion.
Does this process vary from person to person? Which Factors May Cause Patients to Go Through This Process More Negatively?
Although cancer patients share many similar feelings and thoughts in this process, it varies from person to person and each patient has a unique disease course. Cancer may affect some people’s mental health at higher levels than others. Previous psychological problems or a history of trauma prior to cancer diagnosis, getting cancer at an earlier age, lack of social support and financial difficulties are some reasons that may cause people to overcome this process more severely.
How should families approach the person receiving treatment during this process?
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it may not be easy to know and understand how to support them. This process results in various questions and concerns on the part of the patient. Relatives of the patient may also have various questions and concerns about how they can support the patient. The first step to better understanding and supporting your loved one is to make sure that the family members or others who want to support the patient know more about the treatment process. Learning and understanding the process jointly and making the patient feel that he/she is not alone play a crucial role. Some actions or words that actually had good intentions in this process may negatively affect the patient. For example, phrases such as “you will get better” or “you are very strong” that are uttered to provide motivation may create pressure on the patient. As the person providing support, you may want to have all information about the illness of the person you care about, but constantly asking questions about doctor appointments, test results, and how the treatment is going can be exhausting for the patient. Accompanying the patient during doctor appointments and the treatment process can prevent the person from feeling lonely. In this process, giving the person some space to share their feelings before commenting positively or negatively on their condition and appearance, being a good listener with sympathy and sometimes acknowledging that you may not have answers to everything they share with you can be more effective and meaningful than we can anticipate. You should be careful not to give examples from other processes. As mentioned earlier, the course is unique to the patient, and other examples may cause increased anxiety and fear. Instead of giving advice to the person, it would be more beneficial to make suggestions, encourage them and support their needs after understanding them. Another key consideration in this process is avoiding premature actions to urge them to deal with things other than the cancer process. During the treatment process, helping the person with their daily tasks (household chores, meals, etc.), taking their medications and planning activities together in compliance with their health condition make the person’s life slightly easier and make them feel that they are not alone in this process. Family members or other individuals should not overlook their own mental and physical health when they make effort for the person receiving treatment. It is also recommended that the persons giving support initiate their own process and receive psychological support.
Should the patient receive psychological support during this process?
Psychotherapy can help the patient at every stage of the cancer journey. Receiving psychological support can reduce the stressful consequences of both diagnosis and cancer treatment. This support can help to understand and adapt to the nature of the disease and to cope with the accompanying depression, fear of recurrence and anxiety. It can also help the person adapt to life after cancer treatment is over.
How should psychological support be provided in the process of breast cancer in women?
For breast cancer, which is the most common cancer among women, it is important that the relatives of the person also follow the above-mentioned processes so that the process can be more easily overcome. Women diagnosed with breast cancer may feel anxious, frightened, or depressed, as physical symptoms, as well as mental symptoms, appear.
What are the suggestions for overcoming this process more easily?
Some patients tend to suppress their feelings and thoughts so as not to hurt and upset the people around them. It is recommended that people who are struggling with cancer should not restrain their feelings and should freely express them, do not hesitate to ask for support from family and friends, and receive psychological support from experts in this process in order to overcome the process more easily. If you have or someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, it may be helpful to consider mental health support services if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sleep disorders,
- Changes in general mood, such as feeling constantly stressed or anxious,
- Not being able to enjoy the activities you normally enjoy,
- Weight loss or gain as a result of decreased and increased appetite,
- Difficulty getting out of bed not because of the side effects of cancer treatment, but because of lack of energy,
- Difficulty in concentrating or focusing,
- Using alcohol or drugs to reduce stress,
- Noticing an increase in pain and aches, including headaches and abdominal pains.