Medical Definition of Psycho-oncology

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Psycho-oncology: The psychological, social, behavioral, and ethical aspects of cancer. Psycho-oncology addresses the two major psychological dimensions of cancer: (1) the psychological responses of patients to cancer at all stages of the disease, and that of their families and caretakers; and (2) the psychological, behavioral and social factors that may influence the disease process.

The dimensions of psycho-oncology have changed as more children and adults have earned the title of cancer survivor. The impact of cancer is far greater than the millions of new cancer cases worldwide each year. Many cancer patients remain out of sight of the health services due to societal stigma and lack of resources to diagnose, treat and support.

Regardless of the prognosis, cancer is a cause of anxiety and depression in more than one-third of the cancer patients. Cancer has a profound effect on the function of the family in both social and economic terms. Across our globe there are inequality and differences in all aspects of cancer. Cancer incidence and survival are related to socio-economic status but also on the individual level we distinguish between individual differences and effects of the cancer experience.

Psycho-oncology is highly multi-disciplinary. It shares boundaries and interests with the major specialties within oncology including the clinical disciplines (such as surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, and radiotherapy), cancer epidemiology, immunology, endocrinology, cancer biology, pathology, bioethics, palliative care, rehabilitation medicine, clinical trials research, experimental design, clinical decision making and, of course, psychiatry and psychology. Cancer is, after all, a disease of both the body and the mind.



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