Introduction about Cancer:
Cancer is a disease caused due to a dysfunction in the DNA, which plays an important role in cell growth and reproduction. Due to DNA dysfunction, the cell production and growth takes place at a much higher rate and this excessive cell growth is called cancer cells. Such cells do not provide any benefit and in fact consume the body’s resources.
The causes of cancer are not clearly understood but research suggests genes as well as lifestyle factors play an important causative role in cancer. However, psychological factors have also been suggested to play a principal role in the cause and management of cancer.
Psychosocial Factors in Cancer:
· Stress: Research suggests a link between uncontrollable stress and cancer especially the stress caused by loss of social support.
· Depression: Depression has also been associated as a risk factor and in the progression of cancer. If not by itself, depression can lead to other risk behaviours such as smoking, alcohol intake and an unhealthy lifestyle. It can also impact the management of cancer as the patient can become prone to focusing on negative outcomes for her/him.
· Lifestyle: Lifestyle factors such as diet, eating habits, smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity and sexual behaviour are implicated in who gets cancer.
Psychological Management of Cancer:
· Stress management: Stress plays an important role as a cause and in the management of cancer. Thus, watching the stress levels and addressing them is vital as a preventive measure as well as in the management of cancer.
· Relaxation: An active way to fight stress is relaxation. Meditation is an effective relaxation exercise. A simple meditation technique would look like inhaling, holding and exhaling your breath. Continuous practice of meditation through regulating breathing can help in relaxing the mind and coping with stressors.
· Mindfulness: Mindfulness means to be in the Here-and-Now. As discussed earlier a negative future expectancy can aggravate cancer. To address this, Mindfulness can be a helpful tool. Focus on the present and live the present without putting your thoughts to what will happen after a month, a year and so on. Practice of Yoga is another mindfulness tool. Living each moment that you are presented with, with utmost life, love and joy is what mindfulness is all about.
· Imagery: Mental imagery is imagining the times, situations or places that made you feel good, positive and relaxed. It helps in coping with cancer especially during chemotherapy or radiation therapy session. During the therapy instead of looking at the medical devices or focusing on the treatment, closing your eyes and thinking about ‘good-feeling’ thoughts and places can help in reducing anxiety during and after the treatment.
· Social support: As discussed earlier social isolation can be a major cause interacting with other factors to lead to cancer. Hence, a patient should not isolate her/himself. Instead try to be around people, talk to them, join support groups. Create a motivating mindset for yourself and others.
· Exercise: While there can be a weakness after a surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the minute you regain the strength, try to exercise even if it is minimal. Starting with a walk around the house, watering the plants, preparing a cup of tea/coffee and then gradually moving to a walk in the park, cooking a meal…basically gaining control of all your life activities. This will strengthen you physically and mentally.
· Family Therapy: Cancer can have quite a debilitating effect on the entire family especially the primary caregiver. Hence, it is very essential that the family look at the situation practically. If needed, attend family therapy sessions, normally provided at most cancer hospitals. Do not let the cancer have secondary repercussions in terms of emotional health of other members of the family.
To conclude, always have a fighter attitude. No one can fight the situation for you but Yourself. And this fight is fought with love, joy, kindness to self and others and a strong positive mindset.
Remember, the best cure lies in your mind, so use it for healing.