On 26th February, I attended a symposium about Chronic Illness and Mental Health. There were some thought-provoking topics, and I was very interested in a presentation about the psychological effect of cancer, after treatment has ceased.
Professor Raymond Chan from Brisbane, discussed his research which involved people with cancer of the head and neck. He said that while there was emotional and psychological support available for cancer patients during their surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, there was little available once the active treatment finished.
Professor Chan and his researchers found that it was common for patients to feel unsupported after they finished treatment, uncertain about their feelings and how to return to a normal lifestyle. Seeing the GP and the oncologist for follow up was mainly focused on physical symptoms and test results.
The majority of patients experienced difficulties adjusting to changed appearance and the fatigue from treatment. In addition, several patients experienced changes in their capacity to work and earn money, as well as changes in relationships with other people. They also had a fear of recurrence of symptoms, which they believed was not validated by their health professionals. In addition, there was often a sense of changed identity and alterations in attitudes towards life.
It is really important for health professionals to realize that anxiety related to cancer doesn’t cease with the active treatment. Anxiety can impair the immune system and make people more vulnerable to ill-health, including relapse of existing conditions.
Practice nurses are in a perfect position to enquire after patients’ emotions, and to bring any concerns to the doctors’ attention. If you or anyone you know is experiencing anxiety or other emotional difficulty, talk to the nurse at your General Practice.
Relaxation and hypnotherapy can help you to quickly address anxiety, and assist with recovery from physical illness.