What is a Psychologist?

When an individual is diagnosed with mesothelioma they will see a variety of doctors that will work vigorously to cure their cancer.  One doctor that many patients tend to overlook during the diagnosis process is a psychologist.  Psychologists act as counselors, therapists, friends and simply a shoulder to during this tough time in a patient’s life. It is no secret that a diagnosis as serious, and sometimes terminal, as mesothelioma will bring on a whirlwind of emotions.  Even with all the overwhelming appointments a patient may have on their plate, psychologists are trained to help them make sense of this, sometimes sudden, life altering change.

Psychology plays an important role in a cancer’s treatment.  Psychologists can help patients and their families reduce emotional distress, enhance communication between patients and their doctors, reduce treatment’s side effects and improve patients’ quality of life.  There’s even ample evidence to prove that psychological interventions may strengthen a patient’s immune system in turn, helping them live longer.

The Six Major Responses to Cancer

It is common for patients to incur some, or all of the six general responses to having cancer. The first response patients usually encounter is disbelief.  This is understandable, especially with patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. With a latency period of 20 to 50 years, their exposure to asbestos from working in a power or chemical plant, or the like, may seem like a distant memory to them.  It is hard then, for them to link a profession they may have done 50 years ago with their current diagnosis of mesothelioma.  Psychologists are there to explain the logistics of how this can happen, and provide statistics to prove that they are not alone.

A second response concerns pain or abandonment. This is normal for terminal patients and when this happens the first priority should be an open discussion with the patient, his or her family and the treating physician. The management of pain and the optimism and encouragement of the family as well as significant involvement of the physician at all times is necessary and should be assembled as often as possible.

Third, an individual suffering from mesothelioma might undergo anxiety. Unfinished business such as personal finance and business obligations might weigh heavily on a patient’s mind. Not to mention choosing a treatment plan, many with life threatening risks themselves, might make a patient uneasy. The psychologist should be there to convince the patient that the given treatment options are in their best interest and sway them into obtaining information and then to take action.

A fourth response to cancer is a feeling of guilt. The patient may blame themselves for not seeking medical attention earlier. A psychologist can work through those feelings of guilt and remind the patient that mesothelioma has a latency period of 20 to 50 years.  Therefore it would have been nearly impossible for even the doctors to detect it decades ago.

The fifth common emotion is that of grief, enhanced by depression, a physical cause of cancer. Psychologists may feel that their patient may need more than just counseling to help them grieve with their recent diagnosis.  They may refer the patient to a psychiatrist, who can then prescribe them medications to help them function better such as anti-depressants and sleep aids.

The final feeling that is common among cancer patients is anger. A patient’s psychologist can help him or her direct that feeling towards something more positive, like exercise or spending time with their family. Anger is very normal for a patient however, it is much better for the individual to channel their feelings into more constructive and healthful feelings.

Be Involved, Ask Questions!

Psychologists are there to help patients’ better cope with discomfort as well as all the overwhelming feelings one may encounter when dealing with cancer. They can, and have made big differences in the well-being of many mesothelioma patients, helping them deal with their feelings of anger and guilt as well as reducing their anxiety and depression.  It is helpful when patients talk to their psychologist and ask them any and all questions they may have. Psychologists are there to lend a hand in a time of need, and will be happy to answer anything to the best of their ability.