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Taking care of the mind is as essential as treating the body

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Taking care of the mind is as essential as treating the body

Franco S. García Cervera*

Every February 4, for 24 years, World Cancer Day has been commemorated, with the aim of raising awareness about improving the quality of care, disseminating forms of early detection, screening and access to palliative care for people with pathologies. oncological.

One in 3 people develops cancer at some point in their lives. Medical advances in oncology treatments have made possible increases in cure, survival, and long-term remissions.

This implies a sustained effort on the part of the patient and their loved ones; Also, a greater effort by the medical team in the multidisciplinary approach to patients to achieve a comprehensive treatment approach.

The impact of cancer goes beyond the physical, it has a strong emotional impact that includes personal aspects, family and environment. Psychosocial factors can alter the course of the disease.

Most people experience stress from the moment the diagnosis is suspected. Mental health can affect the way we think, feel, act, make decisions and relate to other people.

Around half of the people who go through an oncological pathology usually need a consultation with a mental health specialist due to, for example, anxiety disorder, depression and/or adjustment disorders. To this percentage we must add people who have a mental health disorder prior to the oncological diagnosis.

In this context, it is important to highlight the existence of psycho-oncology, an area of ​​psychiatry and psychology responsible for accompaniment in diagnosis and treatment (with the patient and their families), as well as in the remission of the disease. illness or follow-up in case of continuing with palliative care. It also offers support and training to other professionals involved in oncological treatment.

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What benefits can cancer patients have by seeing a psycho-oncologist?

Firstly, it allows them to have a space where they can validate their emotions, take into consideration the dimension of physical symptoms, anguish, anxiety, existential dilemmas, alteration of body image, sexuality, grief, fear of recurrence, feelings of vulnerability, cognitive impairments and quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

It can also help in decision-making by facilitating the evaluation and understanding of therapeutic options, favors communication between the patient and the rest of the health team, provides tools for coping with the disease and can improve adherence to treatments.

No one expects to receive a cancer diagnosis, but no one should go down this path without support. There are specialists specifically dedicated to supporting these processes. Taking care of the mind is as essential as treating the body.

*doctor specializing in psychiatry and palliative care (MN 145991). Psycho-oncologist and member of the Psycho-oncology Chapter of the Association of Psychiatrists of Argentina (APSA).

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