Being diagnosed with “cancer” can be the most difficult experience for most, even though most cancers are not fatal.
The disease not only affects the body, but also has a negative impact on emotional and psychological health. This highlights the importance of counseling patients and their families to help them through this difficult time.
Dr Hardeep Singh, Department of Mental Health, Fortis Hospital Mohali, discusses treatment options to treat the cancer crisis.
How Cancer Affects Mental Health
Just as diagnosing cancer at an early stage increases the chances of successful treatment, so do mental health issues. It is estimated that a third of all cancer patients have a common mental health problem, but only a small percentage report the same.
After being diagnosed with cancer, almost all patients go through phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important that each step is approached appropriately. A patient who suffers from depression or intense anxiety is less likely to follow treatment plans or even pass preventive screening. Also, they may engage in less physical activity or consume too much alcohol or smoke. There is evidence to suggest that positive mental health improves cancer treatment outcomes.
Cancer patients struggle with depression, hopelessness, anxiety, self-image, body image and intimacy.
It is recommended to talk to a mental health professional for early detection and resolution of the same. Although it is natural for someone to experience despair, bouts of prolonged sadness accompanied by low energy, loss of interest, pessimistic thoughts, problems sleeping and loss of libido are likely to cause depression and require medical intervention.
How therapy helps
Sometimes treatment may involve medication although most patients benefit from individual counseling sessions. Some patients need specialized therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy. Group therapy sessions are another way to treat milder psychological conditions.
Motivation is key
Cancer patients need to be motivated because keeping a positive mindset helps fight the disease. Patients should stay physically active and take daily walks, eat a balanced diet, socialize, and interact with friends and family. Talking helps reduce fears or stigma associated with cancer.
Emphasizing on maintaining a positive mindset, Dr Singh said: “If the need arises, one should not hesitate to seek professional help. Maintain a regular routine and engage in activities that make you happy. This can go a long way in improving your health.