Receiving a Cancer diagnosis can be scary and difficult. Suddenly, your days may be filled with challenging medical appointments. Your attention will become focused on your body, with goals of becoming well and maintaining health while you navigate medical treatment.
The process of fighting cancer can also create emotional turmoil. As you tend to your body, it is important to tend to your mental health as well. Research shows there may be good reasons for adding psychotherapy to the cancer treatment plan.
Benefits of Therapy for Cancer Patients
If you have received a cancer diagnosis, you may be experiencing a complex soup of emotions, as well as physical symptoms and treatment side effects. At diagnosis and during the course of treatment, many people experience normal stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is also possible to experience more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time.
Psychotherapy is one tool that can help to navigate these challenging emotions and improve your quality of life. It can provide you with the support and increase your coping skills and resilience during this difficult time.
Supported Types of Therapy for Patients
Traditional Talk Therapy: Talk therapy provides a safe space for patients to talk openly and receive support [NOT A GREAT REFERENCE]. One of the benefits of this type of therapy is the presence and help of a third party who can hold space for your emotions and experiences, and who is not directly involved in your day-to-day life. This is especially helpful when your loved ones may also be struggling.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is the gold standard of therapeutic approaches. It teaches individuals how to relax during stressful situations, control negative thoughts, think more positively, and engage in the helpful behaviors associated with recovery.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This approach helps individuals learn to acknowledge their physical pain and emotions, while working to accept what is and commit towards moving forward. Shifting from wrestling with emotional pain to accepting it helps to reduce suffering.
Mind Body Approaches
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR works by shifting thoughts away from stressors and emotional distress in order to maintain focus on the present moment. This helps patients find more joy in their day-to-day life and early research shows that it also improves their psychological health.
Art Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapies: These modalities rely less on talking and more on creative self-expression through drawing, painting, or music. It allows you tap into and use the parts of your body and spirit that remain whole and unharmed.
Mind Body Therapies: Research shows that integrating other adjunct Mind-Body approaches such as Meditation, Yoga, and Massage Therapy can also be helpful for patients during cancer treatment. Utilizing these techniques and incorporating them into one’s lifestyle can improve medical treatment outcomes, quality of life, mental health, and reduce fatigue in cancer patients.
If you are dealing with cancer, an integrative approach to treatment can provide support for whole mind-body health.
2018; Teo et Al
68 studies; Jan 2007- June 2018
objective: “summarise the current and growing body of research in psychosocial interventions for advanced cancer patients without focusing solely on intervention effectiveness. Thus, we did not exclude studies based on methodological quality. The aim was to provide a synthesis of evidence from studies with robust results together with preliminary findings to obtain a broad snapshot of the field. “
range of psychosocial intervention studies included; formats, duration, and resources were varied
Types: CBT based; meaning enhancing; dignity, life review, narrative based; other counseling; education only; music writing, others
CBT: 20 studies
positive change in patients’ attitudinal barriers, competence, and self efficacy
60% of trials showed improvement in at least one specified primary outcome: (1) quality of life (QOL) and (2) symptoms such as pain, fatigue, breathlessness, distress related to breathlessness for patients receiving CBT intervention compared w/ control and/ or usual care
Meaning Enhanced: 11 studies
psychotherapeutic intervention emerging from existential theories; seeks to enhance meaning for patients
meaning centered psychotherapy and supportive expressive therapy
6/9 studies showed its effectiveness
meaning centered psychotherapy increased spiritual wellbeing, sense of meaning and QOL
supportive expressive group therapy showed decreased in pain and suffering among participants
Dignity Therapy, Life Review, Narrative Interventions
Patient has opportunity to reflect on life, tell their story, and derive personal meaning
patient guided by framework of questions
4/5 studies showed effectiveness of therapy
dignity therapy: decreased stress, improved generativity, improved ego integrity
life review: improved sense of meaning and QOL
Ng Chong Guan et Al
psychotherapy is a common non- pharmaceutical approach to helping cancer patients with psychological distress
many types of psychotherapeutic interventions, but benefit among all is well documented
review: 17 trials included
6 types of psychotherapy
Each study demonstrated that psychotherapy improved QOL and coping skills in cancer patients
reduction in distress, anxiety, and depression after psychotherapeutic intervention
limitations: number and quality of clinical trials is poor for each type of psychotherapy studied
in a meta- analysis of 4 adjunct psychotherapy trials, researchers found no change in depression scores and significant short term improvement in anxiety only, but not up to a year.
More well designed studies are needed to demonstrate basis for psychotherapy interventions for breast cancer patients
higher levels o f depression among advanced, incurable cancer patients
preference among patients for non-pharmacological treatment such as psychotherapy over pharmacological treatment
purpose: investigate effectiveness of psychotherapy in this pt pop via meta analysis of relevant RCTs
12 studies included
conclusion: psychotherapy associated w/ moderate decrease in depression scores
limitations: few studies focused on patients with clinically diagnosed depression; overall quality of studies was low; heterogeneity among studies high
recommendations: more research needed to demonstrate evidence of psychotherapy treatment for advanced stage cancer patients; psychotherapy moderately more effective for amelioration of symptoms of depression among this population than control conditions