Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Mental Health Protection of Cancer Patients through Mindfulness and Expressive Writing

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Mental Health Protection of Cancer Patients through Mindfulness and Expressive Writing

Article excerpt

According to the World Health Organization, the last decades have recorded a constant increase of oncological diseases, the illness afflicting increasingly larger populations - in 1990 there were 199.44 cancer patients per 100,000 inhabitants, while the incidence rate in 2005 was 240.66 per 100,000 inhabitants (Dégi, 2010). Cancer-related diseases have a long history. As Mukherjee (2010) notes, humanity has always been struggling against cancer; Egyptian papyri mentioning that "there is no" cure for the disease, and, unfortunately, only after a good while -from the mid-20th century onwards- did science start to discover and adopt various oncological therapies. Beside the already existing medical interventions, during the 1980s, the practice of psychosocial oncology took shape, emphasizing that along with increasing survival rates, it becomes a necessity to investigate and enhance quality of life, adaptive coping mechanisms, as well as the assessment and treatment of psychosocial problems. At the same time, the implementation of the knowledge bases and methods specific to oncology, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology, the main focus of psychosocial oncology became the investigation of the factors that accompany and contribute to cancer, as well as the consequences of the disease (Rohánszky, Kegye, Molnár, Boda, & Kapitány, 2014).

The diagnosis and treatment of oncological diseases may have an impact similar to a highly stressful, traumatic event, affecting patients at all levels of their functioning (e.g., biological, psychosocial, and spiritual alike). Traumatic events often exceed human adaptability when life itself or physical and psychological integrity is at risk (Herman, 2011). One of the most critical moments in the trajectory of cancer-related diseases is the moment of the communication of the cancer diagnosis. The integration of this information demands the activation of various coping mechanisms that facilitate adaptation to significantly changed life-conditions (Rohánszky et al., 2014). Dégi (2010), Kállay, Pintea, and Dégi (in press) highlight the importance of patient-centered information delivery, a type of communication that is tailored individually, according to each patient's personal characteristics. Degi's (2010) investigation indicates that 16.9% of the patients in Romania are not aware of their diagnosis, and points out that this unawareness of diagnosis is associated with higher levels of distress as compared to cases where the diagnosis is known. Oncological treatments that follow diagnosis are also very stressful; the side effects of surgical intervention, radiation treatment, and chemotherapy may cause suffering on both the physical and psychological level. Frequently associated symptoms are: anxiety, depression, fatigue, weakness, reduced energy, self-image-, memory- and attention-related problems, emotional disorders attached to sexuality and reproduction, despair, and doubt (Mateescu, Balaceanu, Ciochinaru, Vlad, & Livadaru, 2010). Starting treatment causes anxiety and fear, while misconceptions regarding different forms of treatment are also very common. After the cessation of treatment, there is a need for support due to fear of relapse, difficulties in reintegration, progression of the disease, deterioration of physical condition, and dying, as it is hard to maintain emotional and mental balance under the precarious conditions brought about by the helplessness around the recurrence of the disease (Rohánszky et al., 2014). Jimmie Holland, working at an oncological ward, could observe patients' reactions, and her team of experts considers these cancer-associated psychological phenomena (e.g., distress) as natural reactions. Furthermore, Holland also contributed to the elaboration of the screening tools (Distress Thermometer with problem list) that help in identifying these phenomena (Rohánszky et al., 2014). These screening methods are also available in Romania, within the framework of APSCO research project (Assessment of Psycho-Social and Communication needs in Oncology) - the Distress Thermometer was validated based on Jimmy Holland's elaboration and the Emotion Thermometers tool was based on dr. …

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