Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Psychosocial Treatments for Cancer

Group Support

Support groups have been successful in providing cancer patients and caregivers with information, psychological support, a sense of camaraderie, and insight from others with similar experiences (Tehrani, Farajzadegan, Rajabi, & Zamani, 2011). Further, support groups help patients make decisions with treatments and pain management, and provides peer networking (Oliffe, Ogrodniczuk, Bottorff, Hislop & Halpin, 2009). Support groups are used more frequently by women than men (Lieberman, 2008). However, in a men's support group, humor was a common means of communication and one that provides physiological health benefits that include cardiovascular and respiratory improvement and elevated mood (Oliffe et al., 2009). Support groups also help patients contend with anxiety (Oliffe et al., 2009). Shim, Capella & Han (2011) suggested that one benefit of support groups is the shared experience of communication and processing, which helps patients adapt and adjust to the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and subsequently provides patients with potential health benefits, such as improving patients' well-being (Shim et al., 2011). The knowledge base needs additional research on the benefits of support groups, much of which has been derived from studies on breast cancer support groups for women (Gottlieb & Wachala, 2007).
Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies (CT) can be beneficial adjunct therapies for cancer patients. Between 30 and 40% of cancer patients in the United States use some form of CT (Smithson, Paterson, Britten, Evans, & Lewith, 2010). Some of the more common types of complementary therapies include high dose vitamins and herbal supplements, complementary health services like massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care, old-fashioned and folk remedies, and diets (Kao & Devine, 2000). Some patients seek these therapies as a cure for their cancer or to minimize metastasis, whereas others use them to alleviate side effects, strengthen their sense of spiritual well-being, or gain a sense of control over their medical care (O'Beirne et al., 2004; Smithson et al., 2010; Van Tonder, Herselman, & Visser, 2009). Patients often fail to discuss their choice of CT as well as their satisfactory experiences because they worry that their doctors may think negatively about the CT (Smithson et al., 2010). By self-admission, doctors usually consider themselves unknowledgeable about CT, and most of their knowledge comes from their patients (Bourgeault, 1996).

CT is successful for many patients. It takes into account patient values, provides a learning experience for doctors, contributes to increased patient satisfaction and a higher level of control for patients, and better overall outcomes (O'Beirne et al., 2004; Smithson et al., 2010).

Success in cancer treatment should include factors such as patient satisfaction and well-being and whether the therapy provides a sense of control for the patient, maybe especially when palliative care is the only treatment. When physicians accommodate patients' values in treatment decisions, patients are more satisfied with their care, and patient satisfaction results in better health outcomes (Coulter, 1997). Davidson, Geoghegan, Mclaughlin & Woodward (2004) found CT filled an important psychological need for some patients. Most patients that use CT report high levels of satisfaction (Van Tonder et al., 2009) and a strong sense of control over their treatment (O'Beirne et al., 2004).


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Davidson, R., Geoghegan, L., Mclaughlin, L., & Woodward, R. (2005). Psychological characteristics of cancer patients who use complementary therapies. Psycho-Oncology, 14(3), 187-195. doi: 10.1002/pon.834

Gottlieb, B., & Wachala, E. (2007). Cancer support groups: a critical review of empirical studies. Psycho-Oncology, 16(5), 379-400.

Jatoi, A., Hillman, S. L., Allen Ziegler, K. L., Stella, P. J., Soori, G. S., & Rowland, K. M. (2009). Is social support associated with improved clinical outcomes in geriatric lung cancer patients? Observations from North Central Cancer Treatment Group Studies N9921 and N0222. Cancer Management and Research, 1, 61-68.

Kao, G. D., & Devine, P. (2000). Use of complementary health practices by prostate carcinoma patients undergoing radiation therapy. Cancer, 88(3), 615-619. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0142(20000201)88:33.0.CO;2-P

Lieberman, M. (2008). Gender and online cancer support groups: issues facing male cancer patients. Journal Of Cancer Education, 23(3), 167-171.

Lydon, A., Ryan-Woolley, B., & Amir, Z. (2009). Function of cancer support groups: a telephone survey. Cancer Nursing Practice, 8(8), 12-19.

O’Beirne, M., Verhoef, M., Paluck, E., & Herbert, C. (2004). Complementary therapy use by cancer patients physicians’ perceptions, attitudes, and ideas. Canadian Family Physician, 50(6), 882-888.

Oliffe, J., Ogrodniczuk, J., Bottorff, J., Hislop, T., & Halpin, M. (2009). Connecting humor, health, and masculinities at prostate cancer support groups. Psycho-Oncology, 18(9), 916-926. doi:10.1002/pon.1415

Shim, M., Cappella, J. N., & Han, J. (2011). How does insightful and emotional disclosure bring potential health benefits? Study based on online support groups for women with breast cancer. Journal Of Communication, 61(3), 432-454. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01555.x

Smithson, J., Paterson, C., Britten, N., Evans, M., & Lewith, G. (2010). Cancer patients' experiences of using complementary therapies: polarization and integration. Journal Of Health Services Research & Policy, 15 Suppl 254-61. doi:10.1258/jhsrp.2009.009104

Tehrani, A., Farajzadegan, Z., Rajabi, F., & Zamani, A. (n.d). Belonging to a peer support group enhance the quality of life and adherence rate in patients affected by breast cancer: a non-randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal Of Research In Medical Sciences, 16(5), 658-665.

Van Tonder, E., Herselman, M., & Visser, J. (2009). The prevalence of dietary-related complementary and alternative therapies and their perceived usefulness among cancer patients. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, 22(6), 528-535. doi:

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