As you age, your body starts to weaken, resulting in higher chances of contracting injuries and diseases such as cancer. In fact, Tania Estapé, Ph.D. reported that 60% of cancer patients are 65 years or older because their bodies are more likely to accumulate damaged cells caused by UV radiation or cigarette smoking during their younger years. These people might need the help of psychologists.
When this occurs, the cells continue to multiply and divide abnormally without dying, posing grave health threats to those concerned. For instance, the cancer of the colon and rectum or more commonly known as colorectal cancer according to studies is said to be the second leading cause of deaths for both men and women diagnosed with the disease in the United States.
Patients with this kind of cancer may experience effects physically, emotionally, and financially similar to those with other types of cancers. However, it is usually the emotional needs of these patients that are given the least priority despite them recurring even after the treatment completed. Hence, visiting a psychologist before, during, or after your diagnosis and treatment may help in improving your quality of life.
Psychology In Cancer Treatment
People often disregard the role of Psychology in treating cancer, but studies and reports have shown that psychological interventions have undoubtedly influenced both the patients and their families. Psychologists give them emotional support and help in alleviating distress, which eventually enhances communication among the patients, their families, and their doctors.
Benefits Of Visiting A Psychologist
- Improves Your Health And Well-Being
The theory behind this claim started when David Spiegel, M.D. released his findings on the effect of weekly group therapy sessions to those diagnosed with cancer. He discovered that the participants had survived an average of 18 months longer than those who did not after about a decade. It was later supported by a Canadian study that focused on the effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on women with breast cancer. Similar to the previous study, the participants displayed fewer psychological disorders and a better overall quality of life.
Furthermore, increased stress might worsen cancer as it may act as a trigger to further promote the spread, growth, and increase of tumors in the body. Thus, having an effective support system could lead to reduced episodes of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
In addition to this, psychological interventions can also help in improving a patient’s self-management and control. They become more comfortable with themselves. Patients develop healthier coping skills, which further enhance the health and the emotional and mental well-being of cancer patients.
- Helps alleviate pain during treatments
As previously mentioned, psychologists can help patients in developing better and more effective coping mechanisms, especially when it comes to their treatments. They can equip them with strategies to manage the side effects that come with their medication.
For instance, the Cancer Research UK suggests using self-hypnosis as one of the possible techniques to help patients control their nausea and other side effects and help them to relax. Another strategy that can be taught by psychologists is by using guided imagery or visualization to alleviate discomfort.
In this approach, psychologists bring you into a state of deep relaxation. This is a place where you can then take a journey through your imagination. There are two classifications for guided imagery, namely the Simonton method and the Palming technique. Patients imagine their bodies battling the cancer cells in the Simonton method. While in the Palming technique, it involves patients visualizing different colors to represent various things and emotions.
They can also help in alleviating the strong emotions that cancer induces such as fear and depression. Further, they can influence the patient in making sensible decisions about their lifestyle and choices. Furthermore, psychologists can effectively convince patients to adhere to their treatment regimens and medications.
- Enhances Your Relationship With Your Family
Contrary to common misconceptions, the family members and relatives of cancer patients also experience distress. It is similar to those diagnosed with cancer. However, their emotional needs often receive neglections.
A 2013 study showed that they have higher unemployment rates and lower self-rated health as a result of being more functionally disabled and stressed out. Furthermore, it is critical to also focus on the emotional well-being of the patient’s family. They may impose their frustration on the patient.
Hence, psychologists play a crucial role to prevent this from happening. They can assist family members in managing their stress and overcoming their fear and feelings of isolation through hypnosis and relaxation. Psychologists also encourage their active participation during the patient’s treatment and care.
Adequate care and a stable support system from both family members and doctors are vital. These will promote the overall welfare of a cancer patient. Hence, seeking help and counsel from experts aside from your usual oncologists do not hurt to give it a try.