Oncological Psychology: Psychological Treatment For Cancer Patients

Chronic non-communicable diseases have become a major health problem worldwide, occupying the leading causes of death; However, the most difficult of them to control is cancer, firstly because it has incorporated deep-rooted prejudices in relation to its diagnosis, evolution and prognosis, because it is related to various risk factors that involve human behavior; All of this has socially and culturally conditioned this disease based on of myths and beliefs; which has hindered the success of health actions.

In this PsicologíaOnline article, we will discuss the topic of Oncological psychology: psychological treatment for cancer patients.


There are many questions to answer when talking about cancer; For example: What is cancer? What causes it? How is it diagnosed? Does it have an effective cure??, At what time?, among others. Although Medicine advances and thanks especially to an improvement in treatments and an increasingly widespread attitude of prevention, the cure of cancer is no longer uncommon.

Despite being able to look at this disease with greater optimism, it is usually a chronic disease that affects the entire person, due to its medical and psychosocial implications, and that also just naming it produces great concern. For all these reasons, it is essential not only to approach this disease from a strictly medical perspective but also by assessing the psychological aspectsnot only from the patient himself but also from the family environment.

The importance of oncological psychology

Let us then focus our gaze on the importance and need for psychological treatment after diagnosis Of cancer; to increase awareness about the study of psychosocial factors faced by people with cancer and to provide psychological resources to cancer patients and their families.

So, from a psychological perspective, care for patients with cancer is increasingly taken into account, due to the presence of patients who become depressed after the diagnosis of the disease, and in this circumstance it is important that psychological treatment aims to educate the patient about changes of habits, rejoin social life so that you feel that you regain the ability to control your life and combat depression and anxiety.

Cancer is one of the diseases with greater psychological impact, and frequently after the diagnosis of this disease, symptoms of anxiety and depression are generated in the patient at first. Most patients are able to cope adaptively with the disease, its effects and the life changes it entails, alone or with the help of health personnel and their families, without suffering from any mental disorder.

However, a certain percentage of cancer patients develop psychopathological disorders Due to a previous vulnerability, the presence of other stressful events, the absence of adequate coping strategies or a deficit in social support, as well as the conditions associated with the disease can negatively affect not only the quality of life of said patient but also to correct adherence to treatments.

So, the growing interest in the study and application of psychology to cancer is closely linked to the psychological treatment of patients with this disease to: reduce anxiety or depression, facilitate adaptation to cancer, promote patients to actively participate in their cancer treatment, develop problem-solving strategies, facilitate the patient’s communication with their partner and other family members, as well as improve their social relationships; which will allow the evaluation of the effects of cancer and treatments on the quality of life of the cancer patient.

Assessment of quality of life of cancer patients allows us to: identify those patients who require psychological intervention and assess the effects of the treatments applied in oncology, given how aggressive these treatments can be.

Meanwhile, facing cancer is not an easy thing. The physical effects of the disease and treatment can be quite harsh, and the emotional and psychological impact of having cancer can be equally challenging. However, the good thing is that there are many types of help available through different members of the healthcare team, including the role of psychologists in helping the cancer patient maintain the best quality of life during the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. the illness; as well as providing the patient with coping strategies to better overcome their adaptation to stressful events.

This psychological support is essential although it will always be the patient who has the last wordaccording to a decision-making process assumed throughout the disease.

But, without a doubt, continuous psychological support is necessary to help maintain a positive attitude of struggle and acceptance. It is advisable at all times to help the patient express all of their fears and anxieties. Externalizing these feelings helps to face them calmly. Life is then considered as a succession of days where vital objectives are set in the short term. Unrealistic goals are not set, but the patient is helped to take control over her life through small “fights.” This struggle may be aimed at adapting to the limitations that arise. In this fight, the close environment is essential, contributing greater emotional stability.

The importance of promoting a positive attitude

Although it may be difficult, is a great help. To do this, it is advisable to focus on the possibilities of personal enrichment and not on the changes in a future that more or less all people realize. This positive attitude is compatible with temporary changes in mood. Externalizing feelings helps, as does seeking family support closest.

People with cancer and their families sometimes need psychological help to overcome the emotional and practical aspects of the disease. The fundamental purpose of the psychologist, in this case, is to enhance the personological resources of the patient and her family to face the common problems that arise during and after treatment; such as pain, fatigue and fear, among others.

Family members should plan how to use their emotional and material resources in the best possible way to face the treatment and the subsequent evolution of the disease. This includes turning fears and vulnerabilities (such as anxiety, fear of the unknown, guilt, distrust, misinformation, finances and work) into positive visions that help maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible in the face of these new extraordinary demands.

At the same time, the Family members must be prepared for the changes that will occur in roles and relationships as a result of extensive treatment and hospitalization, as well as new social and emotional demands.

We also consider it important that the cancer patient not only accepts the disease but also understands it. To do this, he must be informed of the symptoms that arise and to what extent they are explained by the disease and the treatment. The compression of the disease It can help dispel fears or fears.

In principle, the fear of the unknown generates great concern and fear of this disease; But this anguish can be minimized with correct information that is always adapted to the patient and the moment of the illness they are experiencing. Then, the patient’s physical appearance causes great cause for concern and often this progressive physical deterioration generates great concern in the patient and the family. The evidence cannot be denied, but the patient must be helped to accept this progressive wear and tear.

In addition to providing the necessary means to control all those factors that influence this wear, it is advisable adapt life goals to that progressive limitation. The pace of life must be adapted realistically, but maintaining a desire to improve in everyday and easily accessible things.


Let’s reflect on the following ideas; the cancer patient who frequently tends to lose the desire to live He is, like all human beings, a being who has lived largely based on external values, other people’s opinions, desires and sacrifices. His goal has been “success”, understood as the achievement of those values ​​and those opinions.

Like any human being, he has sometimes come into contradiction with his own self, suffering anxiety, frustration, hopelessness and depression. Even more so when he is sick, we must transmit to him the need to take care of your own developmentto follow your own path, to cultivate your own interior garden, to play your own melody…

It is also our task that the patient hears again the voices of his own Self, those voices that tell him: “I like this… I don’t like this… how would I like to do this…” That was the message that Socrates nailed to the door of his house: “Man, know thyself.” Although cancer is a significant event for those who suffer from it, it brings with it an opportunity for growth.

The patient must be reminded that life is not static, but is a dynamic process of continuous search and growth. The point is that, although you have to choose a specific path, it matters to live and enjoy every step of it.

This article is merely informative, at PsychologyFor we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Oncological psychology: psychological treatment for cancer patients we recommend that you enter our Clinical Psychology category.

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