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Breast cancer patients need more psychological support

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Researcher believe women need more counseling when undergoing breast cancer treatment.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer often experience many feelings, from denial and fear, to concerns about what will happen with their children – and, now, a researcher has written a dissertation suggesting that women in the early stages of treatment should receive counseling to address certain psychological needs.

Doctoral candidate Karin Stinesen Kollberg is a researcher at The Sahlgrenska Academy who believes that women undergoing breast cancer treatment need more support from a psychologist or social worker. In addition to counseling, she also thinks they need more and better quality information regarding chemotherapy and the effect it can have on their bodies.

In Sweden, 10 percent of all women will be touched by breast cancer at some point in their life, whether by getting the disease or having a close family member diagnosed with it.

Although breast cancer affects a large percentage of women, there isn't much quality research on the psychological needs of patients who have been diagnosed with the disease. What research does exist, says Kollberg, is poor quality. As a result, there is a lack of research-based information about psychosocial support interventions, which Kollberg said that so many women with breast cancer ask for and need.

In her dissertation, Kollberg wanted to give women with breast cancer a voice – and she did just that by allowing 313 women with breast cancer at The Sahlgrenska University Hospital describe what they needed support for and how breast cancer had affected their quality of life.

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The dissertation reveals that these women were mainly concerned for their children, and that they worried about them to such extent that it had a major impact on their psychological wellbeing during the first year following diagnosis.

Kollberg said that, among all the women who described their life after learning they had breast cancer, it was the women who were mothers and had children living at him who “expressed a greater need to speak about their concerns relating to their children” compared with those without any children at home.

Unfortunately, Kollberg added, breast cancer patients do not always receive the counseling they need in order to process their concerns and discuss their other needs.

And, despite medical advancements in breast cancer treatment that have improved the outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease, successful treatment is not the only thing they need to survive. They also need to learn how to feel like survivors because treatment can cause side effects, including psychosocial problems that can impact cancer survivors for a long time.

Kollberg also said that as more women survive breast cancer, the quality of their life will become “a more important question."

SOURCE: University of Gothenburg, "More psychological support needed for breast cancer patients" (March 24, 2014).