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The Techniques and Benefits of Psycho-Oncology

Psycho-oncology treatment works with the cancer patient and family through different stages and challenges to manage distress and equip them with coping tools. When a patient is newly diagnosed, for example, the psychologist might address anxiety and fear, assist the person in ways to take an active part in deciding on treatment options and provide psycho-education (what to expect, how to express one’s feelings, getting resources).

Psychologists can give patients tools to manage pain and symptoms while undergoing treatment. We teach the patient how to use techniques such as mental imagery, tension/relaxation, breathing techniques, meditation and refocusing attention. The patient can use the techniques during treatment to effectively manage discomfort. Having such coping techniques and emotional support often lessens the need for more medication.

Cognitive restructuring is an important technique for managing emotions. Cognitive restructuring teaches patients to recognize and deal with negative thought patterns.

Expressing feelings and having a good social support system are crucial to someone facing cancer. A psycho-oncologist can help patients work through various feelings, learn to express their needs and rally their support system.

Expats who returned to their home countries for treatment may feel anxious about returning to Shanghai. Having professional support can assist in this transition, as well as help identify positive, new life goals.

How do people benefit from psycho-oncology?

Benefits include increased quality of life, improved daily functioning and relaxation, better symptom management, more active participation in treatment, and reduced stress for the patient’s support system. Studies indicate that good psychological adjustment may lead to better health outcomes.

Psycho-oncology is also studying how psychosocial factors interact with disease incidence and progression (the “mind-body connection”). As the nature of cancer treatment advances, so too does the practice of psycho-oncology. We are researching and developing new and better practices for assisting cancer patients and families throughout the disease and in their lives moving forward.

My mission is to accompany patients through the various stages of the disease, conveying hope, supporting and empowering them and their families. You didn’t choose the disease, but you can choose how you deal with it!

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