According to Pan American Health Organization, the burden of cancer will increase by approximately 60% over the next two decades. Thus, It is essential to be aware of the effects it generates on the patient’s life not only physically, but psychologically.since it is a disease that can leave multiple havoc on a person’s mental health.
“From the moment a patient receives the diagnosis of cancer, whatever its severity, an entire psychological process begins to activate. Likewise, many of the main areas of your life are greatly affected, from the work, social and, sometimes, economic level., to the personal, intimate and family level. Likewise, the disease can cause important body changes, which can affect the body image and, therefore, the patient’s self-esteem,” says psychologist Hector Lazo.
In that sense, we spoke with Maritza Parionepresident of the National Association of Psycho-oncology of Peru, who reminded us the importance of psycho-oncology. “It is a specialty that is responsible for providing emotional support to cancer patients. In this way, it seeks to help them cope with the psychological effects of this disease.”
According to the specialist, the word ‘cancer’ implies an emotional burden for anyone from the first moment of diagnosis. Although it is given with great sensitivity, it will have an intense impact on everything that is anxiety, since it will be a situation full of uncertainty. “The person is going to experience a crisis that will affect all dimensions of their life. The support of psycho-oncology allows these patients to have support to go through this very difficult path,” adds Parione.
What is the impact on self-image and self-esteem?
First of all, Parione mentions the temporary changes that can occur in the patient, as is the case of hair loss and other physical effects of chemotherapy. However, there are also permanent effects, such as those caused by radical breast surgery. “It has been observed in these patients multiple “changes associated with body satisfaction and deterioration of physical image, as it affects something distinctive: their femininity.”Add.
To combat this situation, psychologist Lazo remembers to work with the patient and provide psychoeducation. “The patient must know that cancer is not always terminal and that, by lowering his self-esteem, his defenses to be able to face it also lower.”
“Knowledge by patients and their families of the significance of biological damage and the hopes that medical interventions represent for their cure constitute a first step for psychotherapeutic work that contributes to better adherence to treatment,” Lazo asserts. .
What are the pillars to cope with the situation?
Psycho-oncologist Maritza Parione emphasizes that each person will experience this crisis at their own pace. However, from the grieving process, there are certain pillars that we must take into account to support the patient to overcome this long journey:
♦ The patient does not have to go through this experience alone: People tend to close themselves off in their own reflection and the emotions they are experiencing, such as anxiety. They tend to believe that they can find a way out themselves, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.
♦ The need for professional support: It is normal to be blocked by shock and not be able to find a way out alone.
♦ Communication with active listening: The people around you should make you aware that the emotions you are experiencing are valid.
♦ Include family: They have to take the role of primary support for the patient. “Be there without forcing, because the person also needs time and space to process what is happening,” highlighted the psychologist.
♦ Create alliances: The best thing will be for the family and loved ones to make an alliance with the professionals who are treating the patient, both doctors and psychologists. In this way, they will be able to better understand their role and the changes that will occur at the patient’s behavioral level.
♦ Do not deny reality: The situation has to be present for the situation to be bearable.
How to boost the self-esteem of the cancer patient?
Lazo points out that psychotherapy techniques can be provided where the patient can release negative emotions and change their attitude positively towards the disease. “Cognitive behavioral approach and systematic desensitization can help in the rehabilitation process to face the unavoidable changes that the patient will suffer and when it is necessary to break or transform some habits,” he specifies.
In the same way, it indicates that The stress inoculation technique can be used to learn healthier coping strategies, problem solving and emotional expression. Otherwise, the expert mentions that multiple negative effects can be generated. “If not treated correctly, the patient may resist following treatment, develop high levels of anxiety and move on to higher levels of depression,” he emphasizes.
“It is therefore relevant to have psychologists during the process, since he or she focuses their attention on the patient, not on the disease that afflicts them, that is, understands the patient in their biopsychosocial totality. Among his actions, he not only guarantees psycho-emotional carebut can also train health personnel in the management of certain psychological problems and in offering basic psychological support to patients and family members, concludes Lazo.