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The urgent need to manage Psychological Impact of debilitating Illness like Cancer

17 Mar 2015

Mehek was 34 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a huge blow for her and her family. Her 10 year old son didn’t know much about her mother’s sickness but the reactions of his parents and grandparents were enough to signal that it was infact something really troubling. Mehek spent days worrying about her son and husband. “What will happen to them after me?”. After consulting more doctors, they found out there is a possibility of Mehek recovering completely with regular treatment. It gave them hope but it opened door to new worries,“ even if I get better now, my condition can always recur!!And my all treatments are going to be so expensive. I will be a burden to this family!”Mehek interchangeably felt guilt, feelings of loss of control, anger, sadness, confusion, and fear. She spent restless sleepless night thinking of all the future plans she made with her husband and son, worrying about the future and feeling vulnerable. When Mehek’s  chemotherapies began, her threshold for pain diminished too. After surgery her breasts were reduced. It took her worries to a new level. She started crying every time she looked into the mirror. She wanted to be isolated and her self esteem started diminishing threateningly. It was a difficult time for her family too, worrying they can lose Mehek. Her parents and husband started to show heightened level of anxiety as well. Mehek’s oncologist suggested everybody should get help. Mehek took individual counseling and psychotherapy sessions. Sometimes she took them with her husband or her parents. Additionally, Mehek took breathing relaxation, guided imagery, hypnotherapy sessions, yoga and exercise, and other coping strategies, proper exercise and nutrition.She started gaining stronger support from her family   and she started seeing more positive pursuits of life. She focused on spending more time with her family and planning the things she had always wanted to do.She has made a lot of progress fighting cancer and now she knows she will get over it soon.

Cancer has always been considered being synonymous with death but cancer is being treated worldwide with effective prognosis. And it is not the cancer that kills, it is the way of looking at having cancer that kills and quite literally. Studies suggest that psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread. (McDonald et, 2005). Also, in another study, women who reported using beta blockers ( they interfere with some stress hormones) had a better chance of surviving their cancer treatment without a relapse than women who did not report beta blocker use (Melhem-Bertrandt et al.,2011). Psychological stress comes inevitably with diagnosis of cancer. The earlier this stress is handled, the less pain the patient as well as their close ones go through. Therefore, psychological intervention must be started with the diagnosis of cancer. If the stress remains unchecked, it may lead to primarily depressive disorder, adjustment disorder, posttraumaticstress disorder and others anxiety disorders, sexuality dysfunctions (low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, experience of unattractiveness), and other cognitive disorders.


Therefore, psychological intervention must be started at the time the diagnosis of cancer is made.

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Tags: #Cancer #Psychologicaldistress #fatigue #hopelessness #anxiety #loss #fear