Understanding the Psychological Effects of Breast Cancer
The Need for Comprehensive Care
How Providers Can Help
- Embrace the need for psychological care. It should be treated as an integral part of a comprehensive treatment plan, and practitioners should make use of screening tools and additional resources. Providers should initiate discussions with their patients about the likelihood of needing psychological aid — such as counseling, therapy, or support groups — at some point along their journey.
- Include patients in treatment planning and decision-making. As Dr. Patricia A. Ganz notes in Psychological and Social Aspects of Breast Cancer,”Women with breast cancer have become increasingly involved in treatment decision-making, and have made it clear that they have need for attention to the psychological and social aspects of their care, in addition to the targeted treatment of their tumors.”
- Be aware of behaviors or attitudes that could signal serious psychological problems. These include signs of severe emotional distress, major depression, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder. One screening tool that is often used is the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) “Distress Thermometer.” It is a questionnaire that helps determine the impact of distress on a patient’s life.
- Make referrals to appropriate resources. People with breast cancer often do not anticipate all of the issues that they will encounter, and resources such as support groups can be a big help. Do not try to manage every aspect of care yourself.
- The National Cancer Institute’s Moving Beyond Breast Cancer Video
- The National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s Distress Management Guidelines
- The American Cancer Society’s resources for support
- CancerCare’s resources for support
- Cancernet’s resources for support
- The resource list compiled by Nursing@Simmons