Psychotherapy in cancer
Living with cancer or providing care for a loved one suffering from cancer is a challenge for anyone. It is natural to experience an avalanche of emotions when you yourself have cancer or someone close to you suffers from it. Stress, heartache, sadness or uncertainty may overwhelm you. When such feelings interfere with your daily life or linger for a longer period of time, psychotherapy can prove really helpful.
Current research has shown that emotional expressiveness, social support, reduced levels of emotional distress, and a fighting attitude against the disease are connected with longer survival rates in cancer patients. Moreover, clinical evidence shows a very close link between stress, emotions, and the immune system. As early as the 3rd century AD, Galen was arguing, for example, that depressed women were more likely to develop breast cancer than more optimistic ones. This has now been confirmed by modern research, which demonstrates statistically that socially isolated women are at a higher risk of developing cancer than those who are well integrated socially.  Overall, clinical studies have shown that those who are socially well-integrated, who form genuine and healthy relationships with those around them, and who are surrounded by family and friends, suffer fewer illnesses and live longer. Another concern is that conventional cancer treatments generally suppress the immune system. A psychotherapeutic intervention aimed at helping the patient achieve a state of reconciliation, inner peace, and relaxation has beneficial effects on the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems, contributing to the success of the medical treatment.
Thus, psychotherapeutic interventions that address patients' psychological and social problems, their anxieties and disorders are expected to improve their quality of life, decrease their stress levels, and increase their chances of survival.
How does psychotherapy help?The success of the oncological therapy greatly depends on planning and adjusting the psychological interventions, as well as having a thorough understanding of the psychological conflicts and psychiatric symptoms that cancer patients experience. Psychotherapy thus helps cancer patients:
• to have the correct attitude towards the diagnosis,
• to feel less overwhelmed by the disease and regain control over their lives,
• to manage their anxiety and depression,
• to cope better with symptoms and side effects such as pain and fatigue,
• to manage their emotional vulnerabilities around self-image and body image, as well as their personal and social relationships,
• to deal more effectively with their fears or angst about the future.