Appendix B: Psychological needs

Appendix B: Psychological needs

Distress can occur, particularly for patients with deeply indented scars, such as those that occur with skin grafting and/or with disfigurement, especially of the face, head and neck. Providing patients with tailored and accurate information prior to treatment, facilitating patient decision making about appearance altering treatment, and meeting others with similar personal experience may assist some people.

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 melanoma 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 melanoma 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