Finding Professional Caregivers

157731476_47You may have psychological needs at some point during your cancer journey.

Ideally, your psychological needs will be assessed before you begin treatment; for example, some patients who develop head and neck cancer consume excessive alcohol, and counseling services may help to develop coping skills that do not involve alcohol consumption. In an assessment of patients newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer before starting cancer treatment, approximately 40 percent of these patients had alcohol dependence or abuse.

Even if you do not need psychosocial support at the start of your cancer treatment, you may need it at a later point. Post-treatment, you may have impaired function (e.g., speaking, eating), or even have permanent long-term changes, such as a change in voice or change in appearance which may cause anxiety or other emotions. In addition, some patients experience psychiatric problems during the cancer journey and need additional support; a study evaluating 60 patients with head and neck cancer after completing radiation therapy found that 20 percent had depression.

Therefore, you may want to consider joining a support group. Support groups are typically small, with 10-12 members, and most members will have a similar disease state. Studies have demonstrated that patients’ quality of life improves if they participate in support groups.

There are other alternatives besides a live support group. Another option you may want to consider is participating in online communities specific to the disease state. You may become uncomfortable with your appearance, which can be a stressor that leads to isolation from people. The online communities allow you to participate and receive or give support, yet remain anonymous.

Instead of working with a support group, you may want to consider working with a counselor one on one. Many patients preferred one on one training with a counselor who taught them cognitive behavioral therapy; these patients preferred this activity over group counseling.

If you don’t ask, no one can help you. You’ve got to get vocal in asking for what you need. If you don’t speak up, you’re going to feel like you’re not participating in the game. Michele C. (salivary gland cancer survivor)