Family Dynamics

Cancer diagnosis affects the family dynamics. The physician should develop a comprehensive support attitude, extending care to the whole family. When browsing through the items below you will better understand how physicians should deal with the emotional distress of the cancer patient’s family.

  • The diagnosis and treatment of cancer mobilizes the entire family. The most common symptom is anxiety. The family feels fragile because was attacked by a serious illness of uncertain behavior and requiring immediate decisions. The patient tends to rely on family, sharing the responsibility of decision-making. This is a context of risk, because the family does not have the technical conditions or emotional neutrality necessary to assume this responsibility. A vicious cycle of insecurity could arouse. The physician should assume a coordinating role over the family crisis.

  • The family should not put its anxiety above the patient's anxiety. The family should not function as a shield, blocking the direct dialogue between the patient and his doctor. Avoiding the direct dialogue, the family has an attitude of pseudo-protection, reinforcing ambivalence and insecurity. Family should support the patient on following doctor’s recommendation.

  • The physician should coordinate the family dynamics with competence, neutrality and sensibility. He must provide all the necessary information to support his recommendations. Must be always available for patient and family questions. From patients and family’s view, cancer diagnosis deserves immediate care. Anxiety can occur at any time. Whenever the family seeks contact with the doctor, he must be receptive and secure, reaffirming the recommendations.

  • The family should encourage the patient’s dialogue with the physician. The family can and should actively seek contact with the physician, who should inspire confidence on patient’s emotional care. Doctor and family must work together, seeking for a harmonic communication. The family must be always available to assist patient’s needs and rights, assuming a proactive problem solving behavior.

  • The family may seek for a second-opinion. The family may question doctor’s recommendation, requesting the opportunity to have another professional critical view. However, it should have the approval of the patient. Having agreement, the second opinion will benefit everyone, because it prevents the emergence of insecurity.