If you haven’t had cancer, chances are someone in your family has. According to an Institute of Medicine estimation, 1 in 10 households has a member who has received a cancer diagnosis within the past five years.
With cancer comes a boatload of stress for the patient but the stress doesn’t stop there. Families of cancer patients can encounter the same worry, nervousness and apprehension.
“Cancer not only puts a physical strain on the individual with cancer, but it also puts an emotional strain on both patients and their families,” says Dr. Jamile Ashmore, clinical director of the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano Behavioral Health Center.
People suffering from cancer and their family members have to deal with the stress of the diagnosis and the physically challenging, and many times life-threatening, treatments for the illness.
Because of advances in medical technology that allow physicians to detect cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages, many more Americans are surviving and living with cancer.
“Even after a patient has no signs of cancer left in their body, they sometimes are left to deal with permanent physical changes, disability, exhaustion, and pain,” says Dr. Ashmore.
These side effects can lead to emotional pain and suffering and if not managed properly can cause further problems.
In fact, psychological stress associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment can lead to poorer quality of life, poor health behaviors, and compromise the immune system, which in turn can affect survival or recurrence.
“Appropriate support and psychological intervention are often vital to help cancer patients overcome any emotional stressors that they experience during and after their treatment so that they can heal both physically and mentally,” says Dr. Ashmore.
“Having a group of people to help and support you along your journey really does help in counteracting many of the stressors cancer patients experience,” says Dr. Ashmore.
In addition to family members and friends, many find relief from simply interacting with other cancer patients through formal support groups and networks.
The Behavioral Health Center at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano helps patients adopt behaviors that can help them better manage the symptoms of cancer and improve their overall mental and physical health.
Using science-based treatments individuals meet in either a group setting or individually with a healthcare professional. In addition to social support, specific skills are taught and tailored to help individuals better cope with their disease, manage the harmful effects of stress or depression, or improve their health behaviors.
“The scientific data clearly support the positive impact of psychological and behavioral programs on improving emotional distress, health behaviors, immune functioning, and ultimately survival among those suffering with chronic illnesses such as cancer,” says Dr. Ashmore.
How did you and your family deal with the cancer journey?