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How Do You Know When Someone with Cancer Needs Psychological Care?


by Regina Melchor-Beaupre, Psy.D.                                                         www.CPANCF.COM


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Clinical Psychology Associatesof North Central Florida                         2121 NW 40th Terrace, Suite B, Gainesville, FL 32605


"Every person brings unique characteristics to
dealing with illness: a particular personality, a way of coping, a set of beliefs and values, a way of looking at the world. The goal is to take these qualities into consideration and make sure that they work in favor of the person at each point along the cancer journey”

- Jimmie Holland, Founder of Psycho-Oncoloy Author of: The Human Side of Cancer

Generally speaking, a diagnosis of cancer often brings up one of people’s worst health fears. Many cancer patients have the idea that it is the end of their life as they know it. Life changes start from the time of diagnosis, throughout treatment and then later throughout life. Adjusting to cancer can be very difficult and possibly one of the most stressful times in life.

It is comforting to know some people can be very resilient, but a frequent question is “How do you know when someone with cancer needs psychological care?” 

There are definitely times in which anxiety and even depression are part of the cancer process. For example, the initial adjustment to being diagnosed with cancer can be one of the most trying times in the cancer experience, in which a whirlwind of emotions and racing thoughts take over. During this time, it is often difficult to concentrate on much else. The first treatments received also appear to have a devastating effect on thought processes and feelings in terms of ability to withstand the entire course of a particular treatment, and then another and another. Individuals begin to wonder later on how they did it. The first relapse, the first series of clinical trials, and all of the ongoing changes made, in terms of their personal life because of the cancer, can make people feel like they are chasing a moving target.The fact is that the cancer process is actually a series of challenges and obstacles that need to be surmounted in order to move on to, well, …the next challenge.

More on the cancer process  

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, problems can be acute on chronic.  One might be dealing with vomiting in the present due to recent chemotherapy, but can also be aware that they will be dealing with several courses of that same chemotherapy agent again next week and for the next few weeks. They may also be dealing with several other issues such as, work security, insurance coverage, child care for children, and financial pressures due to the high cost of treatment, to name a few. Other issues might have to do with problematic interpersonal relationships with a significant other, family members or friends. A psychologist with special training in this area may be an extremely valuable team member in a cancer patient’s care, who will be able to balance specialized treatment with human compassion, someone who can put important things into perspective and help in troubleshooting crises.  

Factors that might contribute to how well one adjusts to cancer:

  • how well a person has coped in their life
  • prior history of emotional/mental health problems
  • fear of death
  • several losses in their life
  • prior serious physical/emotional trauma
  • tolerance for the physical symptoms 
  • conditioned anxiety symptoms
  • changes in mood or mental functioning 

  • Psycho-Oncology Services  

    There are sub-specialists within the field of psychology who deal specifically with cancer patients and their families throughout different stages. This subspecialty is usually called psycho-oncology. These professionals are able to provide individualized care, education and support related to the specific cancer, and the effects of expected treatments. They usually work with families and caretakers. Therapy is best when it is coordinated between the multiple team members.

     Related Article:  Psychological Aspects of Coping with Cancer     Website with helpful Cancer Care links:  CancerPediatric.COM

    Dr. Melchor-Beaupre has had extensive experience in psycho-oncology.  She has made numerous professional presentations and has experience in providing and establishing psycho-oncology services in hospital and outpatient settings.  She completed a residency in psycho-oncology in the Psychiatry Department at Memorial-Sloan Kettering in New York, one of the top cancer care centers in the United States.  

    Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida provides a range of quality psychological consultation, comprehensive psychodiagnostic assessment, and psychotherapeutic services.  We offer services for children, adults and families who may suffer from difficulties in adjusting to pain, other major medical illness, and traumatic injuries.  We have offices in Gainesville and Ocala to serve you.



    The author of this article and Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida do not endorse, make any representations or warranties regarding any material, informations or entities which link to this site or are linked to this site.  All information involved in making medical or psychological decisions should be made in personal consultation with professionals





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