Appendix B: Psychological needs

Appendix B: Psychological needs

High-dose chemotherapy is both physically and emotionally demanding. People undergoing this treatment may feel exhausted, depressed or anxious for years after treatment (Jones et al. 2015). Regular screening and ongoing monitoring for depression is part of long-term follow-up.

Patients who have undergone a stem cell transplant may have cognitive impairments up to three years post procedure (Sharafeldin et al. 2018). Long-term follow-up and identification of strategies, such as maintaining written notes and repeating information, to enable patients to cope with alterations in cognitive function may be required.

Consider a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, pastoral/spiritual care practitioner, social worker, specialist nurse or a relevant community-based program if the patient has these issues:

  • displaying emotional cues such as tearfulness, distress that requires specialist intervention, avoidance or withdrawal
  • being preoccupied with or dwelling on thoughts about cancer and death
  • displaying fears about the treatment process or the changed goals of their treatment
  • displaying excessive fears about cancer progression or recurrence
  • worrying about loss associated with their daily function, dependence on others and loss of dignity
  • becoming isolated from family and friends and withdrawing from company and activities that they previously enjoyed
  • feeling hopeless and helpless about the effect that cancer is having on their life and the disruption to their life plans
  • struggling to communicate with family and loved ones about the implications of their cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • experiencing changes in sexual intimacy, libido and function
  • struggling with the diagnosis of metastatic or advanced disease
  • having difficulties quitting smoking (refer to Quitline on 13 7848) or with other drug and alcohol use
  • having difficulties transitioning to palliative care.

Additional considerations that may arise for the multidisciplinary team include:

  • support for the carer – encourage referrals to psychosocial support from a social worker, psychologist or general practitioner
  • referral to an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist as a therapeutic approach to prevent and manage psychological health
  • referral to wellness-after-cancer programs to provide support, information and offer strategies.