Psycho-oncology can be defined as the set of professional, educational and scientific contributions of psychology to the study and cancer treatment.
Psychiatrist Jimmie Holland, founder and promoter of psycho-oncology says that this discipline on horseback between psychology and medicine It consists of studying the emotional responses in each of the stages of the cancer patient, their relatives and the health professionals involved. Likewise, he considers that he must study those psychological, behavioral and social factors that affect morbidity and mortality, insisting on the importance of attending to the psychological, biological and social sphere of the person.
The importance of psycho-oncology
The figure of the psycho-oncologist is gaining strength in our society for different reasons, among them we find:
- The increase in cancer cases that occur annually in our country, with the socio-sanitary importance that this entails.
- Advances in medical treatments, which are allowing an increase in the rates of cure and control of the disease, thus allowing to say that having cancer is not synonymous with death.
- The evidence of psychological treatments that have shown how their treatments are valid in improving the quality of life of people with cancer as they help patients find tools for coping with and controlling symptoms.
Functions of the psycho-oncologist
Psycho-oncology is oriented to the psychological approach of different areas:
- The prevention or elimination of bad habits and promotion of healthy habits that reduce the risk of cancer. Prevention can be done both in healthy people and in people who present risk factors such as tobacco consumption. This health promotion can be done from an early age with adapted programs that allow future generations to become aware of their habits and the importance they have in the development of diseases.
- Psycho-oncology professionals are present within the oncological genetic counseling team.
- To the approach of the sick person in each of the disease phases, evaluating and intervening (first emotional impact of the diagnosis, preparation for tests, psychoeducation, psychological interventions during treatments in order to reduce maladaptive emotional responses, improvement of the quality of life, promotion of a correct development of resources and coping strategies, reduction of problems associated with the disease and its treatments such as nausea and vomiting, end-of-life and palliative care interventions, survival-oriented interventions ...).
- Psychological interventions can be carried out individually, in groups, in support groups, family or couples.
- He is also able to respond to the needs and discomfort of family members that sometimes are overwhelmed and lack coping resources. Cancer disease affects the family as a system, it is an important turn of events and it is not unusual for changes in roles and routines to be made. The end of the life of a loved one is a critical moment where the psycho-oncology professional is also present, emotionally orienting family members and offering support and guidelines for farewells, subsequently developing a healthy duel has a lot to do with this. . The preparation of death and its subsequent development is the responsibility of the psycho-oncologist, since the death after a long illness and physical exhaustion of the family member is an extremely impressive experience. In short, this professional guides his work with the family to improve his cohesion, communication and psychological adaptation to the disease process favoring in turn the adaptation of the patient with cancer.
- The medical team is also taken into account since they are professionals faced daily with suffering and death, these situations of great emotional burden can produce emotional distress in them and need guidelines and strategies for their management, the fact that psycho-oncology is Finding halfway between psychology and medicine means that the psycho-oncologist must have specific training on medical and psychological aspects of the disease and its treatments as well as a fluid and continuous communication with the medical team. The treatment of the patient with cancer should be done from a multidimensional and multidisciplinary perspective.
In addition to all these functions, the psycho-oncologist can also carry out teaching and research tasks, teaching tasks are fundamental for the development of this profession, since they convey their importance and put other professionals in contact with the discipline.