Cancer is becoming more and more invasive. It is a disease that brings a lot of emotional and psychological distress and a toll on anyone. The global data suggests that the number of cancer patients has already crossed 19 million worldwide. It won’t be too much to say that there is a direct correlation between mental health and getting affected by cancer. Anxiety and depression are common traits of cancer patients during the treatment and even after a successful recovery.
How does cancer affect someone emotionally and psychologically?
After being diagnosed with cancer, it is fairly clear that you will be flooded with all kinds of emotions. One can be shocked, sad, lonely, angry, guilty, and desperate. All these feelings are real and you can start accepting them.
Cancer is a loss for most people. You can lose your health. The big picture is subject to change. Family relationships can also change. The heavy burden of cancer treatment can lead to financial setbacks. Then there is physical suffering. Therefore, one has to also pay attention to your mental health. Mental health is so important that we cannot say that we will meet one day.
During the course of treatment, it is very common for anxiety to occur before and after the test. You may think that you are not healing the way you should have. You may feel sad, but it’s very common and natural. This can lead to depression. You may lose hope and struggle to focus on your daily work, or even get out of bed. These are all signs of depression.
Things are worse for patients with advanced cancer. Most of them have already abandoned all of their hopes and maybe depressed. Studies have shown that cancer patients are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression than people who have no history of cancer.
Addressing the patients
Patients often talk to their oncologists. The oncologist needs to address the patients by telling them about their test reports, treatments that would be preferable, and so on. The patient may respond with pessimism. This opens up an opportunity for oncologists to answer with empathy. If the specialist chose to do so, the person suffering from cancer might express their feelings. The conversation opens up allowing the person to say things that were buried deep within. So, an oncologist can break the ice to shake things up rather than be technical.
Communication between oncologists and patients
Patients with advanced cancer might be in a state of intense emotional distress and pain. This can burden the patient with a lot of pressure and even lead to anxiety and depression. If they can share their thoughts and feelings with their oncologist then they relieve their stress. Hence, they will be able to cope with cancer in a better way.
A quality cancer treatment should involve effective communication between a patient and oncologist. This doesn’t end with the technical terms and cancer treatment. It should have room for empathic conversations as well.
It is obvious that a patient might not want to bother specialists with their worries and concerns. So, the chance to start an empathic conversation might rest on the shoulders of the doctors consulting the patient.
More than often, clinicians miss the opportunity to take on the empathic talks and even end any empathic starters by getting technical or with unemotional terminators. This can affect the patients negatively. They even continue till they get any empathic response.
Sharing feelings and starting empathic conversations kind of look unnecessary and even a slight waste of time. But studies have shown that such conversation leads to a healthy patient-physician relationship.
Building such relationships is crucial to cancer treatment. Imagine you go to your neighbour asking for help. They help you but they show no emotion nor care. Will you go to that neighbour again? You will find it hard to make a connection with that person or even trust that person.
The same goes with the relationship between the patient and the oncologist too. If an oncologist doesn’t connect with the patient then there is an increased chance that the patient won’t adhere to treatment plans or advice given by the oncologist.
So, a healthy relationship instils a sense of trust and hope in the patients and hence affects the treatment positively.
Influence of oncologists on their patients
Oncologists can have a healthy influence on their patients. Hence, they can effectively help the patients emotionally and reduce the level of stress. It has been found in research that such influence and empathic talks are dependent on a lot of factors like sex and age of patients and oncologists, etc. Younger oncologists tend to start an empathic conversation more than older ones. Speaking of gender, female oncologists more respond to empathic starters compared to their male counterparts. This study also showed that the chances of having an empathic conversation were highest when a female oncologist was dealing with a female cancer patient.
Importance of emotional addressing
Most oncologists agree that addressing the patients emotionally would definitely help. The patient is more likely to have a less emotional burden and a lesser level of stress and anxiety. Mental health can severely affect the quality of life and can also mess up the results of treatment. Optimism and hope can have a strong effect on the recovery of the patient. It can even add to resilience in cancer patients.
It is evident that oncologists should try to communicate with their patients empathically. All of them might not know how to do so. There is a need to develop a method or a kind of training that can help oncologists to address their patients on an emotional level. This will surely enhance the quality of cancer treatment in the long run.