June 2008 
 Mind Your Health
 Information for Healthy Living
In This Issue
Quick Links

Join our mailing list!


If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer or any other cancer, you may be experiencing a wide variety of emotions: fear, anger, sadness, guilt, helplessness, and anxiety. You may wonder, "Why me?" Often patients are unsure about what to do next and at times have to sort out contradictory medical information and treatment advice.

In the very near future you will need to acquire some new skills, including how to best communicate with doctors and other medical personal, how to choose your best treatment options, and how to manage your own responses and those of your family and friends. Today there is strong research data that a patient's emotional well-being and having good support from others can be important to physical recovery.

 Getting Beyond "Why Me?"
 Surviving Cancer

Your Health Team

Cancer is a serious and complex disease. To fight it you will need a team of health professionals, all bringing their own specific specialties to your recovery, including your primary care physician and an oncologist who specializes in cancer treatment. You also are likely to see a surgeon and perhaps other specialists as well. A mental health professional is an important team player as well. Psychologists and other mental health professionals work directly with patients and their families, as well as with the entire medical team, to help personalize the patient's medical decisions, manage treatment side effects, improve communication, provide support, and enhance emotional recovery and well-being.

Cancer Treatment Can Be as Difficult as the Disease Itself

Conventional cancer treatments, from surgery to chemotherapy, are themselves traumatic to the patient. However, in many cases they are known to save lives. Some patients may decide to pursue dietary and lifestyle changes as part of their primary treatment regimen. Psychologists have techniques to make adherence to these new behaviors easier and more successful.

Psychological interventions have also proven to be extremely effective in helping patients handle the pain and symptoms of the disease and the side effects of treatment. For example, techniques used by psychologists can significantly reduce anxiety before surgery and decrease the nausea that often precedes and accompanies chemotherapy. Psychological interventions can also help the majority of cancer patients who report debilitating pain. Psychological techniques can be used to create positive imagery, increase the motivation to adhere to new behaviors, and facilitate reentry into the real world once medical treatment has been completed.

The post-treatment period is usually ignored; yet emotional recovery from the trauma of cancer treatment may take longer than physical recovery. Psychological services can help mitigate the long- term effects of cancer treatment.

Cancer Affects Whole Families

When one member of a family has cancer, the whole family is affected; in fact, psychologists consider these family members to be "secondary patients." Cancer affects the entire family, not only because there are genetic links to cancer and cancer risk, but also because when one member of a family has cancer, the whole family must deal with the illness.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, help for the entire family may be in order. For example, when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, her spouse or housemate may need to take on new responsibilities at home; relatives and friends may be needed to participate in the day-to-day running of the household; and any children involved will need special attention. Good communication among all the players and protection against caregiver burnout is imperative. A psychologist can help construct a game plan that works for all family members during every phase of the illness.

Article reproduced with permission from the American Psychological Association


 How to Help a Friend or Loved One Suffering from a Chronic Illness
 Providing Support

If someone you love is diagnosed with cancer or a life- threatening disease, you may feel desperate and completely helpless. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Research has shown us that family and friends can play a huge role in helping patients deal with a chronic illness.

When a person is suffering from a chronic illness, it's important that they feel truly cared about. What matters most is how people interact with the sick person.

Here are some ways that patients and their families can get the kind of support they want from others:

- Put an end to family secrets. In other words, honesty is still the best policy. We often try to protect our families and loved ones from bad news, but hiding a person's serious illness from the rest of the family can backfire. Communicate directly and be open with family members.

- Include your children. Although their understanding of the situation may be limited, children still appreciate being told what's going on around them. Children can sometimes view themselves as the cause of problems or major events that happen around them. They may view a parent's illness as being caused by something they did. Be open, honest, let children know it's okay to ask questions. This will help relieve some of their anxiety. Remember, a child can be a great source of laughter and warmth for a sick individual.

- Be selective. Everybody under the sun doesn't need to know about your illness or your loved one's illness. Choose who you care to share your news with carefully. Some relationships will prosper and some will become strained. What's important is that you feel that sharing the information with an individual will provide a stronger sense of support and strength.

- Be clear about how family and friends can help. People want to feel useful. Don't be ashamed to ask for help or favors, such as cooking a meal or helping with the school carpool.

Finally, if someone you love if suffering from a chronic illness, learn about the disease, help out with daily errands and chores, and give emotional support. Sometimes we all need a shoulder to cry on.


For more information visit the resources section of our website.


Dr. Given
Dennis Given, Psy.D. - Psychologist & Director
Psychology Associates of Chester County

phone: (610) 873-4748
fax: (610) 873-4715
Email Marketing by