Feelings of emotional, social, or spiritual distress can make it hard to cope with cancer treatment.
Almost all patients living with cancer have feelings of distress. Feelings of distress range from sadness and fears to more serious problems such as depression, panic, feeling uncertain about spiritual beliefs, or feeling alone or separate from friends and family.
Palliative care helps relieve symptoms that bother the patient and helps improve the patient's quality of life.
The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. Palliative care is meant to prevent or treat symptoms, side effects, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems caused by a disease or its treatment.
Palliative care for patients with advanced cancer includes nutrition therapy (see the Treatment of Symptoms...
Patients who are in distress during any phase of cancer need treatment and support for their distress. Patients are more likely to need to be checked and treated for distress during the following periods:
Soon after diagnosis.
At the start of treatment.
At the end of treatment.
From time to time after finishing treatment and during remission.
If the cancer comes back.
If the goal of treatment changes from curing or controlling cancer to palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Patients who are having trouble coping with cancer may find it helpful to talk with a professional about their concerns and worries. These specialists include:
Mental health professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists.
Palliative care specialists.
Patients who are in distress can be helped by different kinds of emotional and social support.
Studies have shown that patients who are having trouble adjusting to cancer are helped by treatments that give them emotional and social support, including:
Counseling or talk therapy.
Cancer education sessions.
Social support in a group setting.
These types of treatment may be combined in different ways for one or more sessions. Studies have shown that patients with cancer who receive such therapies receive benefits compared to those who do not receive these therapies. Benefits include having lower levels of depression, anxiety, and disease- and treatment-related symptoms, as well as feeling more optimistic. Patients who have the most distress seem to get the most help from these therapies. However, patients who received these therapies did not live longer than those who did not receive them.