Appendix B: Psychological needs

Appendix B: Psychological needs

Clinicians need to be aware that these may vary according to the age and developmental stage of the child or young person. Children frequently manifest distress as changes in behaviour. While acting out or oppositional behaviour may be readily identifiable, behavioural change may be more subtle, such as withdrawn, irritable, psychosomatic or regressed behaviour. Specific issues of concern also vary according to age and level of understanding.

Consider a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, pastoral/spiritual care practitioner, social worker, specialist nurse or a relevant community-based program if the patient, family or carer 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 relapsed or refractory disease
  • having difficulties quitting smoking (refer to Quitline on 13 7848) or with other drug and alcohol use
  • having difficulties transitioning to palliative

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