Mind Body Matters
During traditional cancer care, patients usually only have access to their oncologist, who focuses on treatments to fight the disease. This is consistent with the medical model in training that medical and surgical oncologists receive. But what about the psychological and spiritual repercussions of cancer? Without access to these resources, the patient's experience becomes much more difficult.
Mind-body medicine, or Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), explores the complex relationship between psychological and spiritual conditions and physical well-being. The "psycho" portion of the word refers to a patient’s thinking, emotions and mood states. "Neuro" refers to the neurological and neuroendocrine systems in the body. "Immunology" refers to the cellular structures and immune system.
This complementary cancer therapy looks at the influence of the mind and emotions on the body and immune system, and vice versa. The notion is that the immune system "eavesdrops" on the internal environment. Mind-body specialists are typically psychologists or other mental health professionals who use a variety of techniques to promote health and healing.
Mind-body medicine can provide valuable support for cancer patients at a time when they need it most. Some of the potential benefits of mind-body therapies during cancer care may include:
Reduction of disease and treatment-related side effects (i.e., pain, nausea, muscle tension, anxiety, depression)
Improved recovery time and reduced pain following surgical procedures
Provision of a sense of control, empowerment
Improved mood, coping abilities and quality of life