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Nurses can ignore psychological aspects of cancer diagnosis


Nurses should play a major role in easing the worries of patients recently diagnosed with lung cancer, according to a new study.

An American expert warned that healthcare staff can focus too much on treatment and ignore the psychological aspects of a cancer diagnosis.

Rebecca Lehto, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University, said patients are often overwhelmed by anxiety after hearing they have cancer and need support to ensure they remain mentally strong during treatment.

The research featured in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing looks at the different ways that nurses can help patients cope with their ordeal and improve their quality of life.

Prof Lehto said: “Healthcare providers, who are uncomfortable with and avoid discussing end-of-life questions, may contribute to a patient’s alienation.

“Nurses who are comfortable with listening for and discussing existentially-related concerns may be in a better position to promote the patient’s psychological adaptation.”

The study looks at the sorts of worries that many lung cancer patients have regarding the progression of their disease and their fears of death, as well as giving nurses strategies to help patients overcome their anxieties.

Practical steps that can be taken include talking about a patient’s life, family, friends and relationships. Spiritual and religious resources should be made available and advice on how to deal with legal issues such as wills and funeral arrangements can also be given.

Prof Lehto said: “With a nurse’s help, if a patient can resolve the issues that impact on quality of life during early treatment, it may greatly improve their outlook.

“It is difficult for patients to focus on learning about anti-cancer treatment if they are overwhelmed with anxiety and distressing thoughts.”

“Nurses first of all need to be a supportive, non-judgmental presence,” she said. “Patients are making life decisions and sometimes are making death preparations. Nurses can provide patient education materials and offer support in managing life affairs.”



Readers' comments (2)

  • I agree with this article absolutely. Fear is the greatest burden a terminally ill patient has and these fears can be dealt with in a true holistic, palliative care setting. It's a team effort needed here.
    There would be less talk about euthanasia or assited dying if fears about all the above issues where addressed, esp affects of treatment and outcomes.

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  • Surely it is good nursing practise to offer someone psychological support during all aspects of care! I am becoming increasingly concerned by the number of studies that are identifying things that are surely core aspects of nursing - physical, psychological, social and spiritual care, dignity, respect etc. If someone is unable to listen to a patients worries, and be empathetic, why are they a nurse? And how have they passed a training course if they are lacking in these skills?

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