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HomeHEALTHRole of psycho-oncology in treatment of cancer

Role of psycho-oncology in treatment of cancer

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In every human body, cells divide and multiply infinite times. This division and multiplication is often under control and is necessary for growth. Sometimes, this process gets out of control. The cells start dividing uncontrollably and start affecting other organs.

This leads to what we all know as cancer. There is no specific organ where it specifically starts. It can begin in any part or organ of the human body. In cancer, there just is a rapid growth of abnormal cells in the body that can affect adjoining areas. Since there is no common one-for-all medicine available to treat this condition, it is generally fatal. A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer is called an oncologist. The only treatments available for most cancers are radiation and chemotherapy. The impact of cancer is immense for the patient, not just physically, but psychologically as well. Psycho-oncology handles the psychological treatment of cancer patients. Let us try to get an in-depth look at psycho-oncology and its role in treating cancer patients.


Just as oncology is concerned with the physical treatment of cancer, psycho-oncology takes on the psychological cure. Psycho-oncology tackles two main dimensions of cancer:

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  • the emotional response of the patients, their friends, and families, at all stages of cancer.
  • psychological, social, and behavioral factors that could affect how the disease progresses.

As this disease can cause a range of mental health problems in a patient, a psycho-oncologist is an expert who can support the patient and allow him to see reason and hope. Not only does psycho-oncologist help with psychological distress, but they play an important role in communicating and addressing issues like side effects to cancer treatment. By helping them regain control of their mental health, psycho-oncologists can help their patients by motivating them and making them believe in the treatment.

People close to cancer patients are also in the same mental space. They are afraid to lose their loved ones and feel helpless. A psycho-oncologist counsels them about the disease and the medication. As is with the patient, their families and relatives also start losing hope.

Also Read: Cancer and Corona: Why do people die even before death knocks at the Door?

Existential crisis, loss of hope, are some barriers that come in between navigating cancer and its treatment. To help them feel better and emotionally support them, psycho-oncologists communicate and help the patient and their family find courage and belief in doctors. It helps not only the relatives and patients but also doctors. With friends and family relying on doctors, they stay motivated to treat their patients and not give up on them.

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Role of Psycho-Oncology in Treatment

Hearing that a loved one has cancer comes with a lot of shock and a myriad of emotions. It is a life-changing event, with the diagnosis only being the beginning. The patient and their family need support to help them pass through this difficult time. This support system is a collective work of the patient, their family, and the psychiatric as well as the oncology team to believe that there is perhaps, a light at the end of the tunnel. Here is how psycho-oncology extends its support to people in need-

Individual Therapy– This one-on-one therapy focuses on dealing with depression, anxiety or other psychological problems, in patients and making them self-sufficient. Cancer is a disease of both the body and mind and thus, treatment works better when the patient is in better mental shape, this therapy tries to help them find their courage.

Family-oriented Therapy– While the family and patient often have a superficial knowledge of cancer, awareness is missing. This therapy aims to give educational support to help them to learn more about this disease.

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Clinical Advice– Communication between the patient, family, and doctor is vital. There should not be any miscommunication on anyone’s part. Clinical advice aims to improve this communication and support what is best for the patient.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy– Negative thoughts gain control in this situation. This therapy aims to help the patient adapt to the situation help them manage psychological symptoms.

Palliative Care– Cancer is a terrible time for patients. Negative thoughts make it even worse. Palliative care works towards keeping the patient intrinsically motivated to let them experience life fully throughout the end.

Bereavement Care– Sometimes, the friends and family feel guilty about the death of the patient. Bereavement care allows them to come to terms with this loss and move forward in their life.

Group Psychotherapy– Many people have lost their loved ones to cancer and need support. In group psychotherapy, people with similar experiences can talk about their experiences in a group in front of a trained psychiatrist.

General Psychotherapy- It helps patients to deal with their existing symptoms and the stress caused by this disease.


Cancer is undoubtedly a terrible disease. It exacts a toll not only on the patients but on everyone close to them. A psycho-oncologist, who walks into the patient’s life at such a pivotal time, aims to improve the quality of life of the patient throughout the dark journey.

Psycho-oncologists strive to keep that spark of hope alive in patients, which could very well be the deciding factor in this battle of life and death.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.


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