A diagnosis of cancer is difficult for anyone to deal with. Feeling sad, angry, anxious, isolated, stressed or out of control are normal reactions. Psycho-oncology is a subspecialty of oncology that aims to support patients with the psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis. The Psycho-oncology Service at SVUH consists of a multidisciplinary team including psychology, nursing and complementary therapy who provide a clinical service to cancer patients in SVUH.
Patients are referred to the service or can request to be referred when they find that the emotional impact of their cancer diagnosis is having a significant and ongoing impact on their mood, ability to engage with medical treatment or to go about their day to day activities. Whether or not you have had a mental health difficulty in the past, a cancer diagnosis can significantly impact on psychological wellbeing and when these difficulties are ongoing or worsening over a period of time, meeting with a psychologist may be helpful.
Individual Assessment and Intervention
All patients referred to the service will be followed up by a member of the team by phone or in person. This initial conversation will help to decide what, if any, support or psychological follow up may be of benefit. An appointment may then be made for an initial assessment with one of the clinical psychologists on the team. This assessment will involve a conversation about how you’re finding things now and about what life was like before the cancer diagnosis and perhaps also some questionnaires. The information from this appointment will be discussed with you to help decide what, if any, further support may be helpful. Patients may attend for further one-one psychological intervention, or may be referred to one of the groups on offer or to community based supports.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
This eight-week course is offered to oncology outpatients and runs once a week for a two hour period. Where possible the programme takes place twice a year during the spring and autumn. Evaluations of the groups have shown it to be effective at improving mood and quality of life. MBCT is open to all oncology patients at SVUH. Given the demands of the course, it is best suited to patients at the end of their medical treatment.
Cancer-related Fatigue Group (CRF-Group)
This is an eight-week Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) based intervention for patients experiencing persistent fatigue after their cancer treatment is complete. Patients must have finished their cancer treatment at least 6 months prior to the group. Patients attend once per week for two hours. Course places are limited to 8-12 participants per group, and the programme is available bi-annually subject to demand.
Cancer Thrive and Survive
This self-management group takes place weekly for 2.5 hours over a 6 week period and aims to support people recovering from cancer treatment. The group addresses common issues including fatigue, living with uncertainty, exercise, healthcare communication and nutrition. The focus is on increasing self-efficacy and managing health care in the post treatment period.
The aim of complementary therapy (massage and reflexology) is to promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, relieve stress and treatment related symptoms. This service is available to inpatients deemed eligible by the Psycho-oncology team. A limited out-patient service is also available. Patients must be referred by one of the clinical psychologists on the team with the agreement of the medical team before receiving complementary therapies.
Research and Education
The service is committed to ongoing education and research in line with best practice guidelines. We provide regular teaching across numerous post-graduate University programmes on a range of topics including distress in cancer care, end of life, and mindfulness. Research has included investigations into the use of mindfulness based interventions, self-compassion and body image.
How to access the service:
Please discuss your interest in attending the Psycho-oncology service with your consultant or medical team who can then refer you.
If you are interested in participating in one of the groups you can self-refer by contacting the department on 01-2213317 and asking to be added to the waitlist. A member of the team will meet with you prior to participation to clarify if the group is likely to meet your needs at this time.
If you, or those close to you, have any serious concerns about your mental health or feel you need immediate support it is advised that you attend your GP or local A&E.
Links you might find helpful:
General Cancer Resources
Irish Cancer Society
Macmillan Cancer Support
Genetic Cancer Risk
Facing your risk- US based website
Bright Pink (Ovarian and Breast Cancer Risk)
Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer
Canteen Ireland: Teenage Cancer Support
YouCan – Support for young adults with Cancer
See Irish Cancer Society and MacMillan websites in addition to;
Winston’s Wish- The Charity for Bereaved Children
Sesame Street resources for talking to children about illness and grief
Irish based Mindfulness courses and training
Mindfulness in a frantic world