SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Patient resources for coping with breast cancer can be enhanced by attention to cognitive, affective, psychosomatic, and social components of the illness. The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer constitutes an immediate confrontation with mortality, and sympathetic but direct examination of the patient's vulnerability and means of coping with it will reduce rather than amplify death anxiety. The development and pursuit of realistic goals influenced by the prognosis can help patients adjust constructively. Extremes of emotion are to be expected at times, but persistent depression and/or anxiety should be vigorously treated, including the use of appropriate psychoactive medication when the symptoms are primarily somatic (e.g., sleep disturbance and reductions in energy). Physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, and vomiting can be controlled by teaching patients such techniques as self-hypnosis, biofeedback, and systemic desensitization. Finally, a feeling of social isolation is the rule, not the exception, with cancer patients. Group and family treatment can effectively counter this. Systematic studies of such treatment interventions have shown favorable results, including significant reductions in mood disturbance and pain. Cancer 66:1422-1426, 1990.