Treating cancer requires more than expensive drugs

  • The emotional challenges to the shock of a cancer diagnosis and fears about the future are often left untreated. More specific emotional concerns can range from apprehension about body image after treatment to periods of anxiety or depression, sadness, shock, horror, disbelief, frustration, distress, unhappiness, upset, worry, shame, fear.
  • A survey by the Teenage Cancer Trust has revealed that eight out of 10 young people find the mental health impact of cancer as hard to deal with as the treatment itself.
  • Patients who used information sources were more likely to have a higher locus of control over the course of their disease. These results show how important the doctor’s role is in the provision of emotional support.

As ASCO continues in Chicago there is some good news around clinical studies of some new drugs, but what seems to be left behind, in addition to the high costs of these drugs, is treating the emotional side of the patient.

Most busy oncology practices struggle to keep up with managing a large number of patients and everything that patient care entails . There is barely time to concentrate on the emotional side of cancer care.

Being diagnosed with a major illness such as cancer is overwhelming for patients.  Having a support system is needed to keep the patient in good spirits.  One way a support system comes in handy is at doctor’s appointments. Most patients are bombarded with  with information – a lot of which they don’t understand.  While the Internet can be a great source of information it can also confuse and alienate patients. This is where insurers and physicians can really add value.

Physicians need to be informed about the emotional needs of cancer patients as well as caregivers that go beyond handing out pamphlets to patients .  We need to look at patients as people who are scared and need help with questions like “can I take supplements and will they help?”.

Insurers should walk a fine line between helping their customers and overwhelming them with information as well as recommended support groups. This is especially true for young cancer patients who need emotional help to fight off this horrible disease.

To treat cancer, we need to treat the whole patient, not just the disease.

 

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