Cancer diagnosis is usually followed by a great emotional distress. A good patient-physician relationship is the best way to face cancer-induced psychological suffering. When browsing through the items below you will better understand how physicians should deal with the most common emotional reactions observed in cancer patients.
Following cancer diagnosis, there are some expected psychological reactions. Defense mechanisms such as denial, aggression, regression, among others, usually appear. They should not be restrained. They must be respected. In a crisis situation, the patient interacts with his unconscious and elects the best defense mechanism to achieve emotional balance.
All cancer patients consciously or unconsciously know what they have. Otherwise, they would not present defense mechanisms. The physician should seek an open dialogue with the patient, respecting the pace dictated by his emotional condition. The physician should never put his anxiety above the patient's anxiety. Preliminarily, it is necessary to show empathy. It implies the expression of consistent feelings about human values, denoting emotional intelligence besides the technical knowledge. It is important to demonstrate serenity, emotional balance and determination to help. This is the ideal setting for the patient free expressing his doubts and insecurities.
Cancer can occur at any age. The children react naturally, having no preconceived notion of disease severity. They seek for a normal recovery, integrating treatment to the daily life activities. Old people have developed lifelong resilience. Often, they have already been exposed to other diseases, learning how to deal with them and usually transferring the learning process to cancer management. Their concerns are more objective, related to loss of self-determination, financial support and consequent family distress. The adulthood comprises the most productive years of life, related to work and family responsibilities. The diagnosis of cancer in adulthood produces several consequences in family dynamics. The adult seeks medical advice in a broad technical and emotional support, not only to treat the cancer, but also to guide him or her in the recovery of the previous lifestyle. Young people usually question the diagnosis, but are more prone to rational explanation. They require direct language while dealing with the facts. Usually, are objective and straightforward in their questioning process. Eventually, they react aggressively, showing a trend to underestimate the importance of the treatment. They should be conducted with discipline, continued attention and affective modulation.
Psychology or psychiatry aid is only needed when there was an emotional illness preceding cancer diagnosis or when an emotional pathological behavior has been disclosed. Anxiety and depression are normal reactions and have temporary duration, rarely exceeding three months counted from the diagnosis. Often, the patient switches anxiety and mild depression. Seldom require drug intervention. Physician should be continued open to dialogue, reassuring recovery possibilities.
The essence of emotional management is the physician expertise, exerting his perception, sensitivity and genuine commitment to fully meet patient’s expectations. Unfortunately, sickness happens in life. Therefore, this condition must be faced naturally and with strong recover determination. A good doctor-patient relationship is the best recipe to face illnesses.