Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Summer 2005

A Nutritional Journey
Message From the Administrator
Understanding Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)
Psychological Services
Favorite Recipes
Honors, Awards & Publications
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Psychological Services For Cancer Patients

Being diagnosed with cancer has significant affects upon both physical and mental well being. Cancer treatment is a life-altering ordeal that can be eased through the use of psychological services. The Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital offers a wide range of psychological support to help patients throughout the course of their treatment.

The team at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center excels in treating cancer patients medically and psychologically. The psychologists have a specific interest in treating patients with cancer. The therapists are expertly trained in helping people of all backgrounds to ease their adjustment into cancer care. In addition, they realize that the discovery of cancer not only affects the patient, but family and friends as well; therefore, individual, family and group psychotherapy services are offered. Patients have the opportunity to talk to others with similar illnesses and learn new coping methods in the various support groups offered.

Individual psychotherapy is provided at no cost to patients and their family members for the first six sessions. Many patients continue with psychotherapy beyond that time, or they are helped in finding a referral to another provider. In addition to providing psychotherapy, the Joan Karnell Cancer Center has recently introduced a team of psychologists who specialize in bereavement issues and a psychiatrist to aid with evaluation and medical treatment of patients with specific psychological concerns.

According to Mark Moore, PhD, staff psychologist and interim Palliative Care Program coordinator, there are a variety of stages in which patients enter psychotherapy at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center. Upon being diagnosed, an individual is referred to the treatment center if they appear to be struggling or distressed.

“In addition to the initial shock of diagnosis, this can also be a time of great uncertainty and confusion for patients,” says Dr. Moore, “and patients need assistance to help realize that this is manageable and that they can get through this difficult period.”

During treatment, patients can feel overwhelmed as they adjust to a new schedule, new roles at home and work, and physical side effects. Working with a psychotherapist at this time can aid the patient in strengthening their resilience and fostering necessary hope. After treatment is finished, patients may, for the first time, feel the full emotional impact of cancer and live in fear of a recurrence or struggle to make sense of the changes that have occurred in their life. Learning to live without fear and to construct meaning out of one’s cancer experience can be a rewarding outcome of continued psychotherapy at this time.

Patients are encouraged to discuss their issues and concerns with a member of the psychology team at Pennsylvania Hospital in order to get through this emotionally trying time. Furthermore, Dr. Moore strongly urges those with a prior history of depression, anxiety or substance abuse, or patients who lack motivation or zest for life, to visit the clinic.

Changes in appetite and sleep or feelings of terror, excessive fear, and worry are also indicators that psychotherapy would be helpful. If patients feel suddenly confused, have trouble thinking straight, or have thoughts of hurting themselves or others, they should contact a psychiatrist at Pennsylvania Hospital immediately.

Cancer affects not only the physical self, but also life experiences including work and personal relationships. The psychotherapists at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center teach patients that their lives can continue accordingly.


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