Psychooncology Community Center: First experiences
Psychooncology Community Center, Piraeus

Patients with cancer suffer not only from their disease and the consequences of its treatment, but also from various psychosocial problems related to the disease. A lot of them experience isolation in their social, family or working environment due to the myths and negative attitudes accompyning cancer. Many patients have difficulties in their relation with the attendant doctor and experience a lacu of communication and information about their disease and treatment.

A lot of patients with cancer but also those who have finished successfully their treatment suffer alone experiencing an uncertain future. Many patients suffer from the reduction of their functional ability, experiencing the decline and the mental exhaustion afflicting them. The need for continuing psychosocial support after their discharge from the hospital in the protective environment of an outpatient service was the most important factor for the establishment of the first Psychooncology Community Center in the Greek National Health System. The interventions such as psychiatric, biological and psychotherapeutic, all have their own place in the psychooncology Center. Common psychotherapeutic interventions that are based on teaching new ways of coping with cancer, on encouraging the expression of emotions and on sharing common experiences are not only more easily applicable but it appears they have potential important benefits to offer to the patients with cancer. The progress of oncology has resulted to the lengthening of life for patients with cancer and the amelioration of their quality of life. This fact has broadened the fields of psychooncology. Prychooncology today focuses its interests not only to the newly diagnosed patients and their reactions (crisis intervention) but also to the whole course of the disease and treatment. The discovery of genes related to some types of cancer created the need for sufficient counseling to healthy persons and families. Another field of interest for a Psychooncology Community Center is the modification of wrong attitudes concerning cancer in the community and the increase of people participating in prevention and early diagnosis programs. A problematic point is the low numbers of referrals to the psychooncology Center made by the oncologists since a high proportion of patients were referred to from friends and acquaintances. Based on the data collected from the first 70 patients with cancer, it appears that during the 18 months from its foundation, patients with all sites of cancer (especially with breast cancer) uptake the psychosocial services offered by the center. Some of them have high distress levels and heavy psychopathology (especially depression and obsessive- compulsive disorders). These findings point to the need of implementing in depth individual and group interventions in order to alleviate distress and comfort the suffering caused by distress in patients with cancer. Encephalos 2009, 46(1):21-27.

Key words: Cancer, psychooncology, community center.