Experts weigh in on the importance of mental health care in cancer treatment

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World Cancer The Day, which was most recently observed on February 4, attempted to raise awareness of how to save lives. One of the most important aspects of providing care to a patient undergoing cancer treatment, or even someone who has just been diagnosed, is your mental health. Dr. Brinda Sitaram, group director of psycho-oncology service at HCG Center Hospital, told Bengaluru indianexpress.com that cancer brings with it “deep emotional and psychological distress.”

“Mainly, because people perceive that it is not curable and can cause death. This causes a lot of negative thoughts, behavioral changes and emotions in patients and their families.”

Dr. Sitaram cited a national study with more than 21 cancer centers in India that showed nearly 92 percent of patients are in psychological distress, but the intensity and magnitude vary. “There is convincing evidence that 3 out of 5 cancer patients will have severe psychological distress that will also require professional psychological intervention.”

He further stated that during some treatments and therapies organ preservation cannot be achieved, which, along with hair loss caused by chemotherapy agents, leads to “deep psychological distress and altered body image.”

Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit, Director of Medical Oncology, BLK Max Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi, weighed in: “As cancer is a life-altering space for every patient, it not only affects our body but also affects the mind. Patients experience a significant difference in their emotional health from diagnosis to completion of treatment.” He also said that taking care of your mental health “will prove to be an important factor that will contribute to your overall treatment and build the resilience to face the situation more strongly.”

The doctor shared that more than 90 percent of patients in several trials reported reduced anxiety and depression with the right kind of counseling help. “Getting the right kind of psychological education about the disease early on alongside therapy sessions can improve survival rates, reduce fear of recurrence and provide a better quality of life for patients.”

Dr. Samir Parikh, Director of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Fortis Healthcare, alluded to the theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, which was “Closing the Gap in Care”, stating that “taking care of the caregivers it is an important aspect that is often overlooked.” “Caregivers also go through their pressures in providing support and care for patients who have cancer. We can bridge the gap in care by also providing mental, psychological and emotional wellness, and dealing with distress.”

In fact, according to a study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2016, emotional well-being is considered the sixth vital sign (as well as the 5 physical vital signs: heart rate, temperature, pulse, etc.) in cancer care, as also stated by Dr. Sitaram, who concluded that “by screening of patients’ emotional well-being, we can address their issues and concerns, and restore their quality of life.”

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