Every year on February 4, World Cancer Day is celebrated. In the USA and some European countries, an oncologist reporting a disappointing diagnosis immediately gives the patient a referral to an oncopsychologist. In Russia, this has not happened yet - although people with a diagnosis of cancer need not only medical, but also psychological help. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in its effectiveness.
Cancer is a diagnosis that everyone is afraid to hear. Behind him is visible only fear, pain, suspense. Those who have cancer and their families need special moral support. Doctors in a hospital, nurses, friends, acquaintances, most often cannot provide it, because they don’t know what to do. But there are those who know - oncopsychologists.
Ksenia Pyrkova, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology and Personality Psychology, IPO KFU, told about what oncopsychology is and why it is needed.
- Oncopsychology is a new branch of science that appeared in the 1970s at the intersection of oncology, psychiatry, psychology and sociology. One of its founders is Jimmy Holland, an American psychiatrist, ”said Ksenia Vyacheslavovna. - Oncopsychology studies the psychological consequences caused by cancer, and is a section of clinical psychology that highlights the direction of psychological assistance designed to improve the adaptation of the cancer patient and his environment to the disease situation at all stages.
It is no secret that cancer patients have a special outlook on life, weighed down by anxiety and fear of the future. Stereotypes, misconceptions, and the attitude of relatives, friends and colleagues to the current situation play a role.
It is oncopsychologists who actually support the patient and his relatives at all stages of the disease, helping the patient and his family to adapt to the situation of the disease, to rebuild their priorities.
- People with oncology do not often turn to psychologists. At the same time, science and statistics show that cancer patients who receive psychotherapeutic support have an increased chance of a positive prognosis and a positive trend in the treatment of the disease. Compliance is increasing - the desire to follow the prescription of doctors, increasing confidence in the attending physician.
The psychologist helps the patient and his family easier and faster to go through all stages of awareness of the disease, from shock, anger and denial, transition to depression and ending with the adoption of the diagnosis.
- Psychological assistance to cancer patients consists in the formation of an adequate picture of the disease and help in developing a plan for a suitable lifestyle, preventing and managing the depressive state. Ideally, each patient should be accompanied by a psychologist. But first of all, patients with anxious-suspicious traits of character, who are seriously experiencing the very fact of the disease, violating the recommendations of doctors, skipping procedures or examinations, need psychological help.
According to experts, even when the treatment is behind, the help of the oncopsychologist may still be needed to cope with carcinophobia and the fear of relapse, which 3-6 months after treatment “covers” about 70% of patients who are in remission. By itself, this fear does not go away and can poison life for years.
The oncopsychologist helps relatives of oncological patients to resolve the issues of how to behave properly with a cancer patient, in order to help him, and not harm, the medical staff by preventing cancer burns from oncologists and nurses working in an oncological institution.
However, for all the necessity of this profession, we can say that oncopsychology is completely undeveloped in our country: there is no single comprehensive rehabilitation program for the psychological support of people being treated, and oncopsychologists are not trained at universities.
- In the world there are only 2 places where you can get a master's degree in oncopsychologist - these are Canada and Spain. In other countries, this work is performed by a clinical psychologist who has undergone additional training in an oncology clinic.
So, at Kazan University they do not train oncopsychologists. But students of the specialty "Clinical Psychology" study oncopsychology in the disciplines "Psychology of the patient" and "Psychology of the healing process." Since 2019, the discipline "Fundamentals of Oncopsychology" has been included in the main professional educational program of the specialty "Clinical Psychology".
The service of clinical psychologists, psychotherapists is an integral part of palliative care. Unfortunately, oncopsychologists are not yet available to most cancer patients. When the patient is told about his fourth stage, there should be a person nearby who can help live and fight the disease, as well as support with professional advice. This is no less important work than the oncologist himself.