Nowadays, breast cancer is still the most common tumour of women in our society. For women, this is not only a terrible illness but also often involves a mastectomy or removal of a breast. Women then have to face both the cancer and the loss of a breast or, in other words, the loss of part of their femininity.
Cancer involves a level of suffering which has an impact on the quality of life of those affected and of their families. Both the diagnosis and the treatment of this disease bring about a change in values and in quality of life on a physical and psychological level, sometimes creating difficulties in adapting to the new situation. On top of this there can also be communication problems with the patient´s partner and family, reduced self-esteem and possibly feelings of anxiety, depression, loss of control and uncertainty. These problems also all occur within the patient´s family, who need to supress their own feelings and emotions in order to help the patient, without finding an escape valve for them.
Bearing in mind the implications of this disease and its treatment, psychological support may be necessary at different times and for different individuals who are associated with the patient.
The patient is the person who receives the diagnosis and who therefore is the main protagonist. You may need one-off or continued support at any stage in the process. This assistance can be provided in the form of individual or group consultation, according to the circumstances and needs of each person. There are also workshops and general information sessions you can participate in that focus on the psychological impacts of cancer, giving you an idea of what you can expect. In some circumstances this can be done in a home visit.
The cancer patient´s family members are known as second order patients because while they do not suffer the physical consequences of the diagnosis and treatment, they can suffer the same emotional and psychological effects as the patient himself. Furthermore, they sometimes have to support the patient in his critical situation without expressing the emotions this causes. Sometimes there are also obstacles to communication and moments when they do not know how to discuss a delicate topic or respond to sensitive questions. The family can also benefit from on-going individual support in the form of psychotherapy, receiving advice on a specific topic or joining a support group with which to exchange experiences.
Professionals who dedicate themselves to the treatment and care of cancer patients may also need support and counselling sometimes. They may need help with coping with the day-to-day stress of their job but it can also provide them with a better understanding of the patient´s situation and to help him and his family to improve their communication skills. This may be dealt with individually or in a group psycho-educational workshop that is set up to deal with the communication and surrounding needs of cancer patients.