Healing the Body, Neglecting the Mind: CTCA Satisfaction Survey Shows Care Gap

Cancer is not the word that any individual likes to hear; yet and still, when it comes, there is comfort in knowing that family and friends are there with you in the good and bad times. There is also the added comfort of nurses, psychological counselors, and other resource personnel who want to help you recover during your cancer diagnosis and experience peace of mind — that is, for those who receive it.

A new study conducted by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), Inc., shows that twenty-five percent of all cancer patients were dissatisfied with patient care, regardless of whether or not they experienced remission. The study found that this growing dissatisfaction with cancer care is at odds with the rapidly-growing pace of technology that is helping Americans fight cancer and live longer than ever before. There was once a time when a cancer diagnosis spelled the end; today, the cancer diagnosis spells a fight, but one in which many go on to plant the victory flag eventually.

The study shows the gap in cancer care between the body and the mind: while many patients recover from cancer and return to work and life, their psyche is forever changed. Many patients never see a psychologist, and psychologists are rarely recommended for many patients. What this shows is that medical care has become restricted to mostly doctors, hospital visits, clinics, and the patient’s bedroom and home, rather than include those who can provide mental support and encourage patients to develop a positive outlook in the midst of their struggle.

I have seen that many cancer patients who survive do so because of the psychological support shown them during their difficult time. It is often said that “attitude determines aptitude.” If this is true, then cancer care has neglected one half of the human: the mind.

Cancer is a huge blow to many; a number of individuals who are young and carefree suddenly find themselves facing what many assume automatically as a death sentence. Faced with the worry of whether or not they will experience tomorrow, and when their diagnosis will take a turn for the worst, patients turn within themselves to shut the world out. It is during this time that psychologists and counselors can help the most. Yet and still, the psychological component is neglected and abandoned. Why?

I think the answer to the question lies in how we think of cancer; many of us think of cancer as nothing more than a physical disease, but it weighs on the mind, too. Those who have struggled and continue the good fight against brain cancer understand this all too well. Perhaps counselors, psychologists, and lots of love and conversation through the most troubling time of a patient’s life can be the tools needed to revive that individual’s spirit. Until we incorporate the mind along with the body in cancer treatment, we’ll never know.

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