How Can Psychological Treatments Help A Women Adjust to News of Breast Cancer?

Psychologists and other mental health professionals with experience in breast cancer treatment can help a great deal. Their primary goal is to help women learn how to cope with the physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes associated with cancer as well as with the medical treatments that can be painful and traumatic.

For some women, the focus may be on how to explain their illness to their children or how to deal with a partner’s response. For others, it may be how to choose the right hospital or medical treatment. For others, it may be on how to control stress, anxiety, or depression.

By teaching patients problem-solving strategies in a supportive environment, psychologists can help women work through their grief, fear, and emotions. For many women, this life-threatening crisis eventually proves to be an opportunity for life-enhancing personal growth.

Breast cancer patients are not the only ones that can benefit from psychological treatment. Partners can also be suffering. Examples have shown that men whose partners have been diagnosed were more likely than other men to suffer from severe depression and other mood disorders. Psychologists can help spouses manage the challenge of offering both emotional and practical support while dealing with their own feelings. Children, parents, and friends involved in caretaking can also benefit from psychological interventions.

The need for psychological treatment may not end when the medical treatment does. Emotional recovery may take longer than physical recovery and is sometimes less predictable. The social pressure to get everything back to normal is intense, breast cancer survivors need time to create a new self-image that incorporates both the experience and their changed bodies. Physiologists can help women achieve that goal and learn to cope with such issues as fears about recurrence and impatience with life’s more mundane problems.

Can Psychological Treatment Help The Body As Well?

Take nausea and vomiting that often accompany chemotherapy for example. For some women, these side effects can be severe enough to make them reject further treatment efforts. Psychologists can teach women relaxation exercises, meditation, imagery, or other skills that can relieve nausea without pharmaceutical approaches.

Psychologists can also empower women to make more informed choices in the face of often-conflicting advice and can help them communicate more effectively with their healthcare providers. Psychologists can help women become more fully engaged in their own treatment. The result is a more understanding of the disease and its treatment and a greater willingness to do what needs to be done to get well.

What Type Of Psychological Treatment Is Helpful?

A combination of individual and group treatment sometimes works the best. Individual sessions with a psychologist typically emphasize the understanding and modification of patterns of thinking and behavior.

Group psychological treatment with others who have breast cancer gives women a chance to give and receive emotional support and to learn from the experience of others. To be the most effective, groups should be made of women at similar stages of the disease and led by psychologists or other mental health professionals with experience in breast cancer treatment.

Whether sessions are aimed at individuals or groups, psychological interventions strive to help women adjust to their diagnoses, cope with treatment and come to terms with the disease’s impact on their lives. These interventions offer psychologists an opportunity to help women better understand breast cancer and treatment. They typically ask women open-ended questions about their assumptions, ideas for living life more fully, or other matters. Although negative thoughts and feelings are addressed, most interventions focus on problem-solving as women meet each new challenge.

A breast cancer diagnosis can severely impair a women’s psychological function, which in turn can jeopardize their physical health. But it does not have to be that way. Women who seek help from psychologists with experience in breast cancer treatment actually use the mind-body connection to their advantage to enhance both mental and physical health.